With the rising importance of reputation and trust in business and a multi stakeholder environment, businesses need smart PR for their license to operate and thrive. Public Relations has over the years moved from a support function to a partner function – no longer an adjunct to marketing, legal or part of the CEO’s office. The role of digital and social media has transformed the way we work in PR. While stakeholder management and strategic media relations will be the cornerstones of any PR professional, adding digital capabilities and multi stakeholder management expertise is now vital.
Here are some thoughts on how Public Relations will evolve in the coming years and what role it will play.
Across media, social, marketing and other critical functions – it is no longer the PR team that solely needs to create and drive a narrative. Narrative creation needs to be multi-functional and multi-dimensional for greatest impact across every channel. It should also be owned by every colleague and every leader. For this to happen authentically, the narrative must reflect organisational reality.
Living the narrative
This will become increasingly important as we build organisational reputation and trust. As we create a narrative or value for our organisation, it is important to demonstrate what it does and how it behaves to provide proof that it should be trusted. This requires every function, business unit and colleague to live the values and embed this in the business.
Multi stakeholder management
This will be the cornerstone of Public Relations in the future – we are already seeing how it is moving away from media relations to stakeholder engagement. This will get more defined in the future and therefore PR professionals must equip themselves with the knowledge to work with NGOs, governments, influencers, key opinion leaders and others more.
This will become key as organisations are now driving towards value creation – demonstrating how the PR team has protected the business from potentially losing millions of dollars that impact reputation and stakeholder value during a crisis or proactively driven reputation to drive sales, greater partnerships or the talent brand. Moving away from AVE to message impact on business and outcomes will be critical as the function evolves.
Being the co-pilot to your business leader
We need to act and advise businesses to bring the outside in as well as take the inside out. This starts with understanding the business – deeply – beyond the product launches and marketing. It involves understanding the financials, the implications of governance, long term business plans – as this is the only way you can see a reputation headwinds or tailwinds come your way. This is what business leaders need and appreciate.
Content will continue to be King
PR should and will continue to be the pivot that drives and navigates content for the organisation. PR professionals need to continuously re-skill themselves to make content more audio-visual across platforms. Creatively driving the message – aligned with how consumers and stakeholders feel best to receive the messages – will be crucial. Greater personalisation of messages and stakeholder segmentation will be required as we hope to land our message better.
Public Relations will continue to grow in importance as reputation and trust will continue to drive business salience – however the requirements from the PR team will change and go beyond the traditional confines of media relations. We as professionals need to see the change coming and equip and train ourselves to the new demands of businesses.
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This article was first published in the PRAXIS 2022 special edition print magazine of Reputation Today.