The allure of Public Relations has been attracting the attention of varied experts including, academicians, marketers, authors, and even movie makers. While the academic courses still position PR as “The practice of managing communications and its publics,” this mounting attention has resulted in an assortment of the definitions of the profession.
Then what is PR exactly?
As a PR practitioner, I have studied these definitions and found that the variform descriptions have some aspects in common, mainly, communicating on behalf of an organisation, engaging in conversations, managing information, creating conversations. And it makes me reflect upon the importance of the different voices in the life of a PR professional.
Now, that was the starting point!
I dabbled into various permutations and combinations of the stakeholders and target audiences, and I concluded that three predominant voices make or break everything for us. I have defined them as Official Voice, Credible Voice, and Expert Voice. This nomenclature is formed based on the role and acceptance of each voice.
Let me clear the air for you-
Official Voice– News and opinion form two crucial parts of a PR pro’s life. The organisation as a collective group is the Official Voice for an organisation or brand, which gives out the news. Whatever is being spoken by the official voice is being received by all the stakeholders. It builds and influences the company’s reputation. One must be extremely careful while working with this since any errors can result in public embarrassment (and cost you your job). Be patient while dealing with this influential voice, tactfully understand every aspect of the communication created (be a fly in the boardroom). Always depend on six eye view principle to avoid errors, tutor the person delivering the message about the audience and channels used for dissemination. Be a devil’s advocate and prepare everyone involved with a follow-up plan in case the sky falls. Just remember there is no retraction of communication done by the Official Voice.
The sternness of the Official Voice opens doors to the emotional voice.
Credible Voice- The era of corporate narcissism has ended due to the freedom of speech provided by social media. Gone are the days when we heard strictly what a company said. The advent of social media has empowered its employees and partners to share their side of the story. Now when we want to understand an organisation, we research the comments made by its employees or partners (and vendors) who work with it. And this often unveils a can of worms, showing the ugly face of the same company that probably just ran a corporate campaign about
its humane culture and employee focus. However, this doesn’t mean all is not well in paradise. You will agree that employees and partners are integral on notable “publics” list for a PR professional today. The robust employee or internal communication plans are created, to make evangelists who become the Credible Voice. During the Covid -19 lockdown period, evolved organisations sent wellness hampers to their employees resulting in, EGC (Employee generated content) speaking proudly of their organisation. This kind of content lends credibility to the organisational narrative of the company’s image and culture.
No, we have not finished reflecting yet, one of the most critical voice is still left.
Expert-Voice– The name itself gives away the group of individuals who constitute it. The journalists, influencers, and analysts are the experts, while I could go on to add community bodies, government officials, ministries to it but, I believe the original set serves these well. These guys have been an integral part of the Public Relations strategies forever. There is no dearth of expert tips on media relations, story pitching, networking with them, and the list goes on. All this planning, however, goes topsy-turvy because of the sheer number of the people involved in this Voice group. Social media has turned everyone into an influencer, and by the time you understand the clout of a budding influencer, the damage might have happened. No, I am not saying this code is impossible to crack. I want to say that some practices help you emerge out of this labyrinth as a winner. Firstly, step down from the Chair of Royalty as the keeper of knowledge, and start with listening methodically, be open and approachable, be honest in your dealings, believe in dialogue, make Online Response Management (ORM) non-negotiable.
Whether you are in an consultancy environment or corporate system, these voices remain pivotal. However, in different scenarios, the importance and impact of these voices vary, but this seemingly Draconian list of to do’s will help you sail through your PR journey.
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