Change is always good. It means there are new things to look forward to and the irrelevant ones will fall through. The Public Relations business is going through something similar. Things are changing and moving rapidly for the business. With the swiftly changing media landscape and media consumption habits of the end customers, the profession has had to understand and move quickly to adapt itself to maintain some modicum of apparent control on its strongest arsenal – media. Keeping this in mind, the following five things will hold true for me. I believe the business will stand in good stead once it moves to the same.
- Role change: Public Relation specialists will have to move into the role of a communication specialist. The role will involve much more than just press coverage. The ‘PR person’ will have to expand her/his knowledge to include an understanding of advertising, events, outdoor and digital along with the overall impact that it will have on marketing and the implication of PR on each one of them. Simply put, you have to see the ‘big picture’.
- Seat at the head table: The communication strategy of a company can be crucial and key to its success. PR has to have a deeper involvement at the table. They can no longer claim a ring-side view on the interests of the company. In recent incidents (Bad: United Airlines, Jet Airways; Good: Etihad Southwest) we have seen that to be true. The communication strategy needs to be strong and understood through and through by all levels. Not just the external press policy but the internal communications policy needs to be strongly in place. And no one knows it better than the communication specialist. And this needs the attention of the head table, without whose involvement and attention it is just a document in a file.
- Moving beyond press coverage: Press is a crucial part of Public Relation activities. Agreed. But it now can no longer be the only part. As communication specialists the Public Relations team has to think with reputation management in mind. They need to be willing to take, happy and tough decisions and whatever else it takes to build a reputation that your client is proud of and needs for his/her business. This would involve discovering newer avenues of visibility and knowing relevant means of credibility along with a good dose of advising and counselling on all aspects of reputation for the client.
- Super-charged networking: For the above to be true, the Public Relation professionals will have to expand their network beyond media. While media friends are crucial and truly important, it does hold true that if you want to move beyond press you have to look at other avenues that will help you build the desired reputation for your client. That automatically translates into ensuring your network must include different people from all walks of life. You will probably be as good to your client as your network.
- The good ole’ reading and writing: Ahhhh…my favorite. No this will not change. Infact, going by the current trends, this will become a premium skill set. With the amount of talent entering into the business with absolutely no clue about the importance of good writing skills or reading (shudder), it will be difficult for any Public Relations team to move towards the head table when their team member sends a document with the name of the company misspelled in the headline and doesn’t think there is anything wrong in it. Or for that matter, have no clue when the CEO wants to discuss your team’s opinion on the top headline about competition. Information consumption and the analysis of it and the insights that one derives from it for the benefit of your client will be key in determining the success of a communication campaign. Not just the ‘short form’ of news but also the ‘in depth’ analysis is essential. You cannot afford not to be apprised of it. It’s your job. Make time for it.