Fake news and purposeful distortion of the truth are the top two ethical concerns facing the communications industry, according to the 2018 Global Communications Report, released by the USC’s Center for Public Relations at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The organization’s third annual study is a comprehensive survey of more than 1,000 public relations leaders and students worldwide.

Ninety-two percent of those surveyed cited the increasing proliferation of fake news as the most challenging ethical threat to the communications profession, followed closely by 91% who pointed to their concerns over distortion of the truth. Other top potential ethical issues confronting PR professionals, according to the survey, are defense of malicious behavior (88%), lack of corporate transparency (81%).

In other findings, reflective of the public’s shifting attitudes and perceptions towards the media, 64% of public relations professionals surveyed predict that in five years the average consumer won’t be able to distinguish between stories written by journalists (earned media), and purchased promotional content (paid media). And 59% think that the average person won’t even care if they can tell the difference between the two.

“Branded content” is also viewed by PR pros as a potential ethical issue (42%), with an even larger 52% concerned about the related, fast-growing practice of paying celebrities, YouTubers or Instagrammers to create content that promotes products and brands. In this light, PR executives also predict a decline of resources devoted to earned media over the next five years, while owned and paid budgets increase.

Among other report highlights:

·        The major drivers of change will be the changing media landscape (87%); new technology (82%); greater access to data (77%); business model disruption (65%); demographics (45%); politics (45%); tightening PR budgets (45%); and competition from other disciplines like advertising (44%).

·        The top ten skills necessary for organizations’ success will be strategic planning (89%); leadership (84%); written communications (84%); social media (83%); multimedia content development (79%); data and analytics (78%); crisis management (77%); verbal communications (75%); employee communications (68%); and research (67%).

·        70% of agency leaders expect to increase their staff in the coming year, by an average growth of 14%, while 48% of corporate counterparts will be adding people to their departments, by an average of 16%.

Click here to download the full report.

# # #