When I was wrapping up my degree in Public Relations oh so many years ago, I recall a robust conversation in one of my final classes. The instructor was discussing life in the “real world” with us and described an on-going battle to justify the existence and practice of public relations within many large organizations. He described it as a “PR problem for PR.” Hollywood’s portrayals and some high-profile, less-than-scrupulous practitioners had convinced many that public relations was a superfluous luxury or a necessity of the shady.
While in school learning the techniques and tactics, I carried an innate understanding of the importance of communication. I was sure that even in the “real world” people would see the value of helping share and exchange ideas and messages. Unfortunately, the purpose and value of quality public relations still seem to be lost on many decision makers in the business world.
A study recently published by Releasd shows how far the “PR problem for PR” still has to go. One of the eye-popping nuggets from the study shows that nearly 20% of execs polled couldn’t even identify what “PR” stood for. And even more couldn’t say exactly what role practitioners played. The good news is that the execs that did have a good grasp of the PR function lauded its importance for the benefit of the organization. Broad stroke, over-simplistic moral of the story: If you can teach them and show them what you can do for them, they will become your fans.
I have spent my career working in corporate communications, as part of various organizations. I have not worked in the agency world where one must constantly promote themselves and convince potential clients of the worth. Yet, I spent plenty of my time justifying my existence to internal partners. Most of my success has come when I’ve been able to show how my work can help them with their work; that’s something everyone can appreciate.
- Are you an engineer working on a large, stressful project? I can share your project with local media and/or craft a submission for an industry award. Now you’re an engineer for a critically acclaimed, award-winning project.
- Are you an HR rep struggling to find quality applicants for openings? I can explore using targeted social media postings and partnering with outside groups to promote the opportunities and the benefits of joining our organization. That should deepen your talent pool.
- Are you a finance officer concerned about pending regulations or tax implications? We can develop an informational campaign to educate key legislative partners so they take our interests into account when making policy decisions.
- Are you a sales rep having trouble getting your foot in the door in a specific area or community? I can build and develop relationships within the community to strengthen our organization’s brand and image (think: educational outreach or little league baseball sponsorships). Your sales calls will be better received when we are seen as part of the community and not just outsiders.
- Are you C-Level executive who has grand ideas that go beyond the organization, throughout the industry and beyond? I can expertly craft and shop your bio so that you are invited to be a keynote speaker or to be profiled by a media outlet. I can raise your profile and the organization’s by extension.
For many, it is hard to see how PR contributes to the bottom line, and so they question its existence. I love answering this by explaining that the measure of my success is how much I help them succeed. A great example of a win-win.