To some, PR is still little more than road kill

There’s no question the craft of public relations has gained in stature.

More and more chief executives understand PR’s importance to constituent communications and its influence, direct or indirect, on the Street. Chief Marketing Officers have also recognized PR’s ability to reach targets on a one-to-one basis. Additionally, CEOs and CMOs prefer cost-effective PR instead of big, bad advertising.

Yet, for every two steps forward, it seems PR always takes at least one giant stride in reverse. Take Chrysler, please.

The PR Strategist’s current issue takes an in-depth look at Chrysler’s decision to strip PR’s direct report to Chief Executive Bob Nardelli and, instead, assign public relations to Human Resources. Ugh.

Even though Chrysler is now privately-held, it makes no sense to distance PR from the corner office. And, it makes even less sense to have the function report to Nancy Rae, Chrysler’s human resources chief. Ms. Rae may be the Michael Phelps of HR, but I guarantee she knows less about the practice of PR than, say, your average agency intern (and, that’s said with all due respect to interns near and far.)

Public relations MUST report to the CEO. He or she MUST have a seasoned communications professional who understands the rapidly-evolving communications landscape and can provide unvarnished direction and feedback. That’s true in normal circumstances, but even more critical in a crisis. Trust me, when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan, a Fortune 500 company CEO does not want a communicator whose counseling expertise is limited to crafting employee handbooks and newsletters. Instead, he/she will want a smart, seasoned PR pro who understands the murkiness of today’s landscape and can help the CEO navigate turbulent waters.

Sadly, it will take a monumental crisis before a guy like Nardelli wakes up and gives PR its rightful seat at the table. Let’s just hope he’s still occupying the head seat when that realization occurs.