A headline from a Holmes report recently caught my attention – ‘40% of Execs don’t think PR delivers Good Value’. To see the glass as half full, I would argue that 60% see us adding value and we need to work towards bringing the 40% on our side. So why don’t the 40% value the work we do? Why is PR not an independent function in many organisations? While this particular report is UK centric, experience says, the scores in India would not have been any better.
To be fair, we are not even two decades into formalised PR and have come a long way from the days of Executive Assistants doubling up as PR leads. Still, a lot of work needs to be done by us to build respect and credibility and convert the naysayers. Partly, the fault lies with us. We have made media coverage as the centrepiece of our existence. A lot of you would agree with me that PR is so much more than media relations and we need to move beyond this. Over the last 20 years, I have had the pleasure of working with CEOs, who in time learnt to understand, appreciate and leverage the power of PR. It was a journey and it took time and consistent efforts to get there. And CEOs like these comprise the 60% who believe PR adds value.
Strategic Planning: Understanding the business, mapping your communications strategy to the business plans backed by market research is the best way to get the CEO’s attention and show that the PR roadmap leads to value generation. Unfortunately, not many do this but take PR as an adhoc exercise. You need to reach out and ask the right questions to put together the strategy which has elements beyond media relations.
Employee Engagement: It does not matter how many good media stories/social media engagement you have got going, if your internal team does not believe in the organisation, it does not matter beyond a point. Perceptions cannot survive on thin air. Bring in value as communicators by building strategic internal engagement campaigns and back this up by surveys showcasing employee morale/feedback to CXOs. This demands an article on its own. Watch this space.
Government Relations: Communications lead in any organisation is a natural fit for Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs. Build your knowledge of business and challenges and you can grow into this role showcasing value beyond media. I grew into this role in one of my previous assignments and it was based on merit.
PR consultancies also have this as a part of their portfolio so who best other than Corp Comm to own this.
CSR: There are a lot of synergies between Communications and CSR. While CSR is all about making a difference and building the local community, Communications is all about building a corporate’s reputation as a responsible citizen going beyond business, strong governance – yet another area where the Corp Comm can take the lead and build. We understand the power of perception, reputation and what makes for a powerful and impactful story.
Power of saying no: Trust me when I say that sometimes standing up and saying ‘no’ brings respect. The power of conviction in saying ‘no’ to a CEO or a client needs to be backed by strategic reasoning and an alternate plan. We all believe that our story is good and media should write about it. But does the media believe it too? Some stories are best leveraged through other platforms and create the same impact. For example – Awards, small scale CSR activities, employee engagement, product launches, etc.
Build campaigns: Lines are blurring between Marketing and PR. We need to do more than corporate stories, build PR led campaigns impacting sales and reputation. Aviva Great Wall of Education, PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship are some of the campaigns I got to work on where PR and CSR played a leading role.
Ending with a quote from someone I respect –
“World-class communications teams help organisations achieve ambitious goals with key stakeholders. When we tell MetLife’s story in a compelling way, the advantages for the company are clear: customers who want to buy more products; employees who want to give more discretionary effort; policymakers who want to support our business; investors who want to own more shares; and communities that hold us in high regard.” – Randolf Clerihue, Head Global Communications, MetLife