Public Relations Taking Broader Role, Says Dalton

Article excerpt

Public relations professionals used to live up to their job by knowing how to write a press release, compose an annual report or stick a caption on the back of a photo.

Now all of that has changed.

"Public relations practitioners are transitioning from the role of the technician to that of strategic advisers and counselors to management," said H.J. "Jerry" Dalton, manager of corporate communications for The LTV Corp. in Dallas, a $7.3 billion diversified manufacturer of steel, aerospace/defense and energy products.

They are taking on a broader role, Dalton said, requiring greater skills to fit the needs of a technologically advanced society plagued with ever increasing environmental and social problems and the reality of global market forces.

Dalton, also president of the Public Relations Society of America, visited Oklahoma City to speak for a group of society members at the Petroleum Club. A native of San Antonio, Dalton was appointed director of information for the U.S. Air Force in November 1975. He was promoted to brigadier general the following month as the first career public affairs officer in charge of the service's worldwide public affairs program and worked in that position until his retirement from the Air Force in 1980.

Indications show that public relations billings will continue to grow, Dalton said, particularly in expanding international markets in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Public relations billings in 1989 exceeded $1 billion nationally, $2.5 billion in Europe and about $6 billion worldwide, Dalton said.

About 159,000 public relations practitioners are estimated to be working in the U.S., according to Bureau of Labor statistics.

Shifting demographics, expected to bring a labor shortage in the nineties, will have a central impact on public relations, Dalton said.

"That will make the role of employee communications even more important," he said.

Ten percent of net additions to the workforce will be comprised of white male workers while 60 percent will be women and minorities, including many immigrants, Dalton said. …