Elevating Public Relations: Unlocking Its Potential as a Management Function

In a thought-provoking keynote address, Stephen Waddington, the Founder & Managing Partner of Wadds Inc., delved into the pivotal role of public relations as a management function. “Public Relations as a Management Function” was topic in the Keynote Address. With a keen focus on the dynamic shifts brought about by the pandemic, Waddington shed light on the critical but often undervalued position of PR within top management.

Public Relations: A Crucial Management Function

Waddington began by emphasizing the unprecedented significance of public relations as a management function, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. He underscored how PR had been elevated to the highest echelons of organizational decision-making, making it a linchpin in navigating the complexities of the crisis.

PR in Management: Unrecognized Scope?

Despite its newfound prominence, Waddington acknowledged that public relations often fails to realize its full potential within top management. One key reason, he elaborated, is the limited awareness among management regarding the extensive scope of PR’s role. Management routinely engages in public relations activities but often fails to recognize them as such.

The Missing Link: PR Education for Management

A significant gap identified by Waddington is the absence of training and preparation within management education and training programs for the PR role. While PR occasionally gains prominence within management, this recognition is not backed by formal education or training for management professionals in the nuances of public relations.

Outlining the Boundaries of PR Practice

Waddington highlighted the frequent confusion surrounding the scope of PR practice, especially in the absence of a clear definition or established body of knowledge. PR is sometimes misconstrued as marketing communication or mere publicity, leading to a lack of clarity in its role within the organization.

Aligning PR Measurement with Management Goals

One critical challenge, Waddington pointed out, is the misalignment between PR measurement and management’s measurement standards. Management often struggles to comprehend the contribution of PR activities to organizational value, while practitioners may not consistently hold themselves accountable to management-defined standards.

A Unique Manifesto for PR in Management

To enhance the value of PR within management, Waddington presented a three-pronged manifesto:

  • Foundation and Management Knowledge: Continuous learning and development for PR practitioners, with a specific focus on entry-level and managerial roles.
  • Engagement between Theory & Practice: Promoting knowledge transfer between research and PR practice to encourage innovation.
  • Professional Standards and Certification: Qualifying PR practitioners in ways that resonate with management’s understanding and expectations.

In a Fireside Chat, Kiran Ray Chaudhury, 80 dB Communications enquired why did he choose such a topic? To which he answered – “We have such a latent opportunity to contribute to management. We really need to elevate PR, and it was during COVID, we realized you needed elevated skills”.

AI –  A Game-Changer? Addressing the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), Waddington acknowledged that AI was an unforeseen game-changer in the PR landscape. The growing influence of AI technology has compelled PR professionals to adapt and leverage its capabilities in unprecedented ways. About AI, he thought out loud – “The big trend is AI. We didn’t see that coming!”

Rapidfire Insights

In a rapid-fire round, Waddington shared very concise, yet insightful responses to several intriguing questions:

  • Strategy or execution – Both
  • Being a student – It’s wonderful to go back to school
  • Favourite brand which is PR success – Authentic brands are the ones that truly engage with publics
  • What is the most abused word in PR – ‘Outreach’

In conclusion, Stephen Waddington’s keynote address unveiled the untapped potential of Public Relations as a management function. His manifesto and insights provided a clear roadmap for PR professionals to elevate their roles within organizations, fostering a deeper understanding of PR’s strategic impact on overall management functions.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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