Public Relations – a nice to have or a necessity?
By Talitha Jario.
One of the great challenges for PR professionals is that, after decades of maturity and proven worth, public relations remains a nonessential part of an organisation’s budget. For many organisations it is treated as a nice to have rather than as a necessity in today’s reputation driven world.
Countless misconceptions about the profession have evolved over a period of time – evolved because the mandate keeps changing and adapting to the wants and not strategic priorities of the organisation.
PR has a growing role to play in the modern world, whether seeking to influence, through lobbying and information; reacting to a crisis, building the company brand or simply trying to limit the damage in a situation where public opinion is concerned. Communication is too important to be left to the uncertainty of what might be perceived by stakeholders, and too important for practitioners to be called in at the last moments of a crisis like image paramedics. Public relations should be at the very heart of every business strategy, translating and communicating the organisation’s objectives, mission and its vision into language that will be understood as preparation for the relationships that your organisation needs to form.
The number one purpose of PR specialists is to add strategic value through communication to the organisation. Many might ask how, as the challenge of breaking through to sceptics continues on how practitioners intend to achieve that and how their expertise will help them meet their strategic goals and objectives.
Business strategies cannot be implemented in vacuum and require the involvement of its internal and external stakeholders to ensure that the strategies are achieved. Each strategic business goal requires communication goals and strategies of its own, which is where public relations make a difference. By designing communication for each stakeholder audience, PR assists in identifying activities that will not only be unique to the desired audience but also be effective in engaging and strengthening the bonds between stakeholder groups and the organisation. In effect, practitioners project manage the communication strategy, clarifying the resources such as the financial and people required, providing exposure through marketing and communication initiatives, setting timescales that provide evaluation and feedback; tools that are essential to any successful strategy.
There is clearly a need for PR practitioners, and the industry as a whole, to address how organisations communicate to the wider world, the tangible strategic value that practitioners bring to the organisation. Perhaps there needs to be less emphasis on presenting a shopping list of tactical activities that are misaligned to the organization’s mandate, and more on how PR fits into the overall strategic business challenges and its role in identifying practical solutions.
PR professionals and experts, need to be in at the earliest stages of the organisation’s strategic drive. They need to be grooming both current and future stakeholders through the production of excellent and compelling strategic messages. They need to be involved in business operations, product development, investor relations and there with a political voice.
Strategic documents are developed all the time, however without accurately aligning the business plan to the communication initiatives, we fail to engage with our stakeholders and build lasting business relationships.