PR professionals need to be seated in the boardroom – but are we ready?

Those who don’t know about Shirley Chisholm, here is a quick background. She was a woman of many firsts – the first African American congresswoman who also ran for presidential elections; also, the first woman to run for the USA’s Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Now that we have read about Chisholm, we can say that the quote suits the present-day PR professionals especially those working in-house. PR and communications have been a support function of the marketing department since long. While ecosystem is fast changing and mindsets are growing but PR professionals have been fighting this prolonged battle to prove the value that they bring to the table.

Today reputations can break within a few seconds – with a tweet or a social media post going viral (remember that Indigo crisis the video of a passenger and a staff member fighting went viral around 1.5 years ago). It is therefore time that PR gets a seat on the table – the table of the boardroom that takes the crucial business decisions and decides the success strategy of the organisation.

There is a lot of debate in terms of whether PR gets the seat automatically. Of course not. One needs to be hands-on with the brand, the industry, and its stakeholders and be prepared for the pressures that the role demands. The critical challenge is to be able to create the key brand messages, be aligned to business strategy and understand the various stakeholders involved. PR, today, has evolved and is not just restricted to media relations. Modern-day PR professionals need to look at campaigns with the lens of integrated communications and work together with different departments.

Every brand is becoming data-driven these days – and we, as PR professionals, work with a lot of data, deriving insights from the data based on which campaigns are constructed. With various data analysis tools coming up day-by-day, we can elevate our role as a strategic business driver working closely with the c-suite and solving business problems.

Insights play a foundational role in the creation of a campaign – in fact, the marketing of a product comes in much later, but it is the insights that lead to the creation of products/services. A major learning was the conceptualization of Saregama Carvaan – where the chief executive of the company shared his problem with the consultancy on board – not a PR firm but an advertising and innovations agency, The Womb (that was started by (ex-Ogilvy & Mather) Navin Talreja and Kawal Shoor). Instead of an activation or a brand campaign, the firm advised to create a product that was created for the old but gifted by the young. Not many product design teams understand the latent human needs – the insights that communication professionals know of.

Another noteworthy point is that PR is not just how to communicate but more importantly, about what needs to be communicated. It is the brand narrative that lays the foundation of its reputation and therefore communicating the key messages to the desired target audience is the most important task of PR.

Additionally, for business-aligned communication, it is crucial that there is a synergy that exists within the teams. Traditionally, PR and marketing teams used to function in silos, and they used to come together only when major announcements were to be made. Today, in an all-time digitally connected world, where the lines are blurring between internal and external communication and integrated communication is by default expectations from brands, it is important for the teams to be aligned with each other. The content that goes out to media and that which is posted on social media properties must be connected. Content is still the king and like a good king, good content is one which is synchronised across all channels.

Gone are the days when PR was called the poor cousin of advertising. From the age of one man/woman PRO to marcom teams of today, PR has indeed evolved. The number of users on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram are more than the entire population of India; there are almost 500 tweets sent out every day with some of the breakthrough movements such as #MeToo starting on Twitter. People today consume content on-the-go and on various platforms simultaneously. With such a porous state of communications, without any doubt, we, as PR professionals need to have a seat at the table at the beginning of the planning stage of a campaign or during a matter that concerns the reputation of the brand.

And if that doesn’t happen, well, we need to take the folding chair with us! ☺

Pratishtha Kaura
PR Professional
Coming from the millennial club of PR professionals, Pratishtha works at Archetype (formerly Text100). With over six years of experience in communications, she has been creatively storytelling for brands across consumer, education, arts &culture sectors. Listed in PR Moment 30 under 30, the annual list of top 30 PR professionals (2017), she strongly believes in driving PR for PR – one stakeholder at a time!

Inspired by the character of Jessica Pearson from Suits, she advocates for women’s equality at work and life and wants to write a book on the topic one day.
She can be reached at @PR_wali on Twitter.

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