In the early 1990s when the US Army War College responded to the collapse of the USSR with VUCA and much later in 2014 when HBR published an article on the shiny, new acronym doing the rounds in boardrooms and corporate floors, little did they know how Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity would hit us all at the same time. While we are slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic that started in 2020, we’ve also witnessed The Great Resignation in 2021, a war that started in 2022, the recent Sensex crash, and newer stories every day that make us go ‘It’s definitely crazy out there!
As communicators, therefore, our role to help organisations/boards/institutions navigate this VUCA world and create change for a better future is ever so critical now. But what does it take for Public Relations professionals to become these strategic advisors for the organisation?
- Ears to the ground: Listen to every word your audience and stakeholders are saying – on social media, on TV, through e-commerce reviews, in the media, and just about everywhere. Knowing the pulse of your audience is the most important part of your communications strategy. These popular words from Police, ‘Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you are a communicator’s mantra!
- Eyes on multiple screens: In a world where WFX (work from anywhere) has become a common feature of our lives, communications professionals have to ensure that organisations are able to communicate clearly and consistently through various mediums- Zoom/Teams/Google Meet or Slack/Google Docs/Intranet/WhatsApp as well as traditional media outlets. Concise and razor-sharp messaging will be our true friend when we talk to people all around the world
- Hands-on on data and technology: PR professionals need to learn to fall in love with data! Data helps make sense of the ambiguous messages floating around. Whether it’s slicing and dicing social media analytics, the hits that each of your content pieces gets, the reviews that your product gets on Amazon, or even looking at sales numbers post a campaign run, every data point is necessary for us to create the right communications strategy. The fast-evolving digital world calls for communicators who know how to craft interactive stories for short attention spans and changing trends, based on data and insights
- Feet ready to move: If there’s one thing that the last couple of years has taught us, it’s Agility! Public Relations professionals have to be flexible, adaptable, and agile to move with the situation and alter plans as events unfold. It also means that we have to be ready to collaborate with people we wouldn’t usually interact with within the organisation. Public Relations is no longer just media relations or event management. PR teams now have to step into the shoes of a digital manager, the researcher, and also the creative director to ensure the right message in the most effective manner is communicated to the world
- Head full of ideas: Volatility in such a world can only be countered with a vision and new ideas. PR professionals need to be ones who are always thinking, not just about media coverage or events or content but also about how to engage better with employees, what kind of simulations and scenarios are to be built for the future and even about collaborating with people in other functions and sharing knowledge. Public Relations as a core management function needs to bring in genuine diversity of thought in the organization. It’s not enough to only think of diversity in terms of gender or race but also in terms of beliefs and ideas.
The last few years have shown us the power that strategic Public Relations can play in the organisations’ growth. But as our friendly, neighborhood Spiderman says ‘With Great Power comes Great Responsibility. Public Relations professionals, therefore, also have to hold responsibility for doing things the right way.
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This article was first published in the PRAXIS 2022 special edition print magazine of Reputation Today.