Six ways to become an activist of business critical PR

Six ways to become an activist of business critical PR

Lara Caplin

Lara Caplin

There is much debate in our industry about the importance of PR being respected by the Board. I believe that critical to achieving this goal is our ability to define what business critical PR means and then actively drive forward this vision in everything that we do.

Fundamentally, this means that business-critical PR doesn’t just look at what PR stories a company has to push out; it looks at how PR can become part of the business development process both directly and indirectly influencing the output of the company through its products, customer service, HR, legal and marketing functions.

This can range from convincing the product team to range products that are inherently newsworthy, creating policies and procedures that are both consumer friendly but founded in a strong business case to ensuring that PR is integrated into marketing campaigns and not an after-thought. PR people have the opportunity to put forward real and credible solutions that drives business value.

What surprises me most is that together our industry needs to realise the business benefits PR can bring to the bottom line of the company – not just through column inches but by directly embedding itself in the organisation, so that PR becomes part of the company’s DNA - the conscience and soul of the organization, if you like.

Public Relations professionals as ‘activists of change’

Interestingly, the current definitions of public relations tend to focus on the output of ‘good PR’, which is excellent reputation management between an organisation and its publics, but what it fails to take into account is the opportunity for PR people to directly influence business decisions (and not just the words) so that this positive reputation management can be achieved.

If PR people can become the activists of change in the organisation, when it comes to column inches, your job will be easier than ever before because you have actively influenced the final brief that comes your way.

For those PR folks who are ploughing on in-house, I’ve put together some top tips for becoming activists of change:

1. Be inquisitive - don't just take the company line, assess whether it is right, not just for the reputation of your company but whether it will do more harm than good for the company overall
2. Focus on educating the business about good PR. If there is no story, tell them why and show them what makes something newsworthy
3. Become part of the business development process ether by directly or indirectly influencing business decisions whether that is through product development or customer service policy
4. Get invited! If you’re not invited to the table to discuss business decisions - get an invite!
5. Find a balance between the business case of the company, and consumer friendly PR
6. Speak business language. For example, if you work for a retailer, see how your PR can increase footfall into stores or if you have a lot of employees based in call centres see how local PR can boost their morale

PR agencies, too, play an equally important role in fulfilling this vision of becoming activists of change but it can be particularly hard for them, if clients don’t give agencies the access and understanding they need to make this happen. Equally PR agencies need establish a business model which allows them to get close enough to the business without the constant threat of over-servicing. Whilst there are many similarities between the core skills of agency and in-house PR teams, there are fundamental differences that need to be understood and embraced so business-critical PR can be achieved.

That is what I am trying to achieve through my workshop programme, both with clients and PR agencies. My aim is to build a better understanding of business-critical PR so that clients can become part of the business development process and that PR agencies can understand ‘through the client’s eyes’ how they can add real value.

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