Futureproofing Public Relations through transparency & employee empowerment

There’s a sequence in the 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, where Freddie Mercury arrives late to a jamming session, and is perplexed to see his bandmates clap and stomp their feet together. Brian May puts him out of his misery with the line, “I want to give the audience a song that they can perform.” Organisations are like concerts. How you choose to play can mean the difference between a performance and an immersive experience.

Technology has already upended the communication experience — where neither knowledge nor access is a privilege. The proliferation of social media, and the democratisation of technology allows both long and short form content to be at our fingertips. With their “first with the news” northstar, competition among reporters is high, and reaching employees is easier than ever before. More importantly, employees have a voice and there is a premium on what they say and how they say it.

This is why building an immersive experience where employees can sing from the same song book can have an outsized impact in terms of share of voice and the quality of conversation. Professional communicators are the songwriters and conductors of that concert. They are at the very heart of building that immersive experience.

“Futureproofing” public relations, is rooted in two core principles — transparency and employee empowerment.

Transparency is driven from the top. It is part of an organisation’s DNA, demonstrated in its culture and values and pervasive across functions; cascaded in a way that ensures information isn’t a tool for the privileged few. It helps attract and retain talent, drives morale, and provides a safe space so employees can be authentic at work. We all know what these organisations look like and how they are perceived both internally and externally – High on mission and values, and driven by a purpose to do good for their communities and society at large.

The value of such transparency for public relations is immeasurable. A ‘loved’ brand is mostly treated with respect, mitigating risks, and allowing for communicators to concentrate on the job of amplifying the ‘good’. These organisations naturally empower their employees. There’s enough goodwill of the organisation that rubs off on them. Employees strongly believe that the organisation they work for is good for the world at large, and generally they aren’t at the receiving end of a communication conundrum.

This changes a bit in new-age companies or even in legacy organisations that are beginning to operate in newer ways. That’s where employee empowerment comes in. This could begin as early as the talent identification stage — when teams are reviewing resumes or reaching out to potential candidates. How an organisation communicates, how much information it shares, and how transparent the hiring process is are the markers of success. If the process can turn a reluctant candidate to someone who is keen to join the organisation, the investment in communication is a success, irrespective of the outcome of the process.

Companies also invest in their employees. Often enough they are designed from a perspective of enhancing or learning a new skill. But skills are not enough. And it is here that professional communicators can help shift the mindset and the method. Workshops that allow you the time to look within, discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and help build a culture of bonding is the foundational work that communicators should lead. It is not an easy task. These are long-term commitments, where professional communicators will be expected to hold the conscience of an organisation.

It is often said that a person will not remember the words you use, but they will never forget the way you make them feel. In an organisation, irrespective of your function or your role, being treated right will always hold a premium. When organisations get this right, employees will have a song that they can perform. Together. As one.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Ranabir Majumdar
I am Ranabir Majumdar. I lead Internal Communications in APAC for Uber.

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