I am halfway through the book ‘CATALYSE’ by Krish Shankar. It’s about the power of HR to transform businesses and every chapter has some wonderful insights and takeaways. The parallels between HR and PR seem to jump out at me at regular intervals. In chapter two which is about creating value he writes “Over the years, I found that we in HR have an existential problem! Is HR really needed? Is it valued?…” I could replace the word HR with PR and it would ring as true. One of the key solutions Krish proposes to answer this question is “Outcome Oriented HR”. It gets me thinking about the power of “Outcome Oriented PR”. He calls out three must-dos.
- Start by articulating important ‘must-win’ battles
- Identify specific HR outcomes to meet those objectives
- Keep it specific and check links to business
And you will be able to answer the all-important question – What kind of people-related (PR) outcomes are needed to create value?
It’s as if HR and PR are twins in this context. Take for instance the central idea of aligning HR behind ‘must win’ business battles to ensure that the function has maximum relevance and impact. This is the direction PR too must take for business leaders to understand its true power and potential to support the growth agenda of any brand or organisation. It is easier said than done. In the last 26 years that I have been associated with the PR profession the number of times, I have seen campaigns that have a clear and meaningful “business aligned” PR objective with well-defined and measurable goals is few and far between. What I have seen with frightening regularity as PR objectives or briefs is some variation of the following.
- Create buzz
- Generate excitement
- Build thought leadership
And quick on the heels of these objectives comes the strategy… Educate; Engage; Evangelise (or) pick any other alphabet and find three words of this kind. Pre-Event; Event; Post-Event framework is another favourite. I am guilty of having used all of these in the past. However, as I spent time talking to the students of the Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication as part of their orientation session on Public Relations the reality of how little has changed over the years weighed heavy on my shoulders. Much can and must be done to make the PR profession stronger.
What is Public Relations? What is its role? How does the next generation of PR professionals give new meaning and shape to the industry? Understanding the ‘’business-of- business’ coupled with the ability to creatively capture earned attention, is where I believe the future lies. For many years I was part of the brigade that complained that the brief was unclear. Today I see that as one of the major areas I can contribute. To help read the external environment. Bringing the outside in and helping frame the “must-win business opportunities” is powerful work. Aligning communication behind this agenda, with specific PR objectives that have clear links to business and then finding creative ways to earn stakeholders’ attention is the journey to “Outcome Oriented PR”.
The simple shift from the vanilla “build thought leadership” to the deep analysis that identifies what thoughts to lead with and what makes that matter to the audience and how this will positively impact the business, is where the power of PR lies. That consultative capacity coupled with the creative execution of content that captures attention is invaluable. HR has learnt to speak the language of the CXO and present its value proposition in terms that align with organisational priorities. PR I am hopeful will follow in these footsteps and in doing so showcase its true value and potential to be a force of good that makes good business sense. As a profession, we need to pick our ‘must-win battles’ carefully, and here too the intersection of HR and PR are aligned. The calibre and diversity of people the PR profession can attract will define its future. Time for some HR PR?
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