Findings in a survey of public relations professionals and students conducted by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Dow Jones & Company in concert with its Factiva suite of products, show that new communication technology has been widely accepted by the public relations profession. Simultaneously, communicators at all levels of experience, including students, strongly believe that new technology tools, such as blogs and social networking sites, present critical credibility and ethical challenges.
The survey, “Wired for Change--A Survey of Public Relations Professionals and Students: Attitudes, Usage, and Expectations in the New Communication Technology Environment,” was conducted to explore how professional and student members of PRSA and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) view the role of technology in shaping current and future communication practices. The survey was sent to a random sample of both organizations’ memberships, with response rates of 5 percent for professionals and 2 percent for students. A majority of respondents in both groups raised concerns about the credibility of information being generated through new media sources, such as social networking sites, and placed the greatest amount of trust in traditional media; including more technology--driven traditional media, such as online newspapers. More students than professionals indicated that the use of some of the new communications channels could present significant ethical challenges for public relations professionals. According to the survey, 46 percent of the students and 35 percent of professionals think technology makes it difficult to conduct public relations ethically. Additionally, 41 percent of students responded that technology makes defending against skepticism about public relations more difficult, compared to 33 percent of professionals.
Nearly all students (97 percent) and professionals (95 percent) agreed that technology has positively impacted the public relations practice. According to the survey, professionals and students believe that online news, online video and personal digital assistants (PDAs) have had the most significant impact on how public relations professionals do their jobs. Professionals also cited podcasting, while students ranked professional networking websites highly. Generally, students have a more positive view of new communications tools than professionals, especially professional networking websites, Internet TV, blogs, social networking sites, satellite TV, Internet radio, chat rooms and video phones. Both groups believe that the technology--driven channels that provide the best opportunities for the practice of public relations are online news websites, blogs and social networking sites. Students are more optimistic than professionals about the potential usefulness of social and professional networking sites. According to the survey, 19 percent of students reported that social networking sites present the most significant opportunity, compared to 10 percent of the professionals. Eight percent of students said professional networking sites were the biggest opportunity, compared to 2 percent of professionals.
(www.factiva.com; www.dowjones.com; www.prsa.org; www.webmasterRadio.FM)