By Eniola Mayowa
It is not unusual to have Public Relations Managers lament the frustration on their jobs; particularly the poor understanding of the value public relations brought to bear on the bottom line and the overall success of the business they represent. I recall my experience as a greenhorn in public relations practice over two decades ago.
The office of public relations reports directly to the CEO, however, there was the common office intrigues to have public relations moved to the legal department.
Of course, my boss resisted the move and that brought the office into conflict with the Treasury department which considered the PR office as a consuming department with no commensurate value to the business. As a young executive, I often had to take the heat because I have the responsibility to present our department’s requisition for funds to the treasury department hence cynical remarks such as “money-consuming ants”; “spender of the universe” etc were common unpleasant feedbacks.
Many people do not have an understanding of how public relations contributes to business success. It is important that PR managers and everyone responsible for PR portfolios in corporate organisations, and established business entities in public and private sectors of the economy purpose to do more this year. Top executive support and colleagues understanding of public relations remain critical factors to a successful PR practice and programme implementation.
PR is a management function; hence it is important that the support of top-level executives such as CEOs and C-suites leaders is intentionally sought to maximize the potential of public relations efforts in your organization. Indeed, top management support is important for building credibility and trust with stakeholders and the public which includes the company’s investors, suppliers, partners, employees, regulators and customers.
Demonstrate knowledge even if you have to embark on self-development training at your own expense to earn your respect within the organization. I once worked with a client contact in a multi-national organization who said his understanding of PR was very poor until he worked with Stepcraft hence he requested a weekly session with me over a period of three months. This greatly helped him and enhanced his knowledge.
Be Proactive! Never wait to be called upon to write a press release or organize a press conference to showcase what PR offers. Generate content to highlight the importance of PR to the bottom line and circulate across the different departments and within your internal communication channels. Clearly articulate the benefits of whatever PR initiative you deployed which includes improved reputation, increased visibility and brand credibility, top-of-mind awareness of products and services and prospective business opportunities.
Partner with the top management and encourage their participation in the planning and strategy session for your PR initiatives. Formally request the HOD of various departments or their representatives. This will give a sense of recognition, and ownership and enhance their understanding of what you do.
Be heavy on internal and employee relations. This works magic within and among the workforce in any corporate environment or business organization. How do you communicate with the internal audience? How much of self-worth do you leave them with when communicating management decisions that impart their career growth and contributions to the organization? How are they celebrated in their personal or official accomplishments? Do you promote a sense of ownership and positive interaction and engagement in your communication? These and many more, if well implemented, will greatly make your role important, visible, respected and understood.
Strategically position the top management for media exposure through media interviews, thought leadership, speaking engagement, industry commentaries, etc. be deliberate at projecting top executives as thought leaders in the industry with the business operation as well as within the sectors of their professionalism. They will appreciate you for it.
Prepare top management for potential crisis situations and have a planned document for the days “it will rain heavily without an umbrella so that alternative shield is in place”. A crisis occurs at unusual times, places and seasons. It is important to have everyone understand what could constitute a crisis for the organization and what they need to know in the event it occurred or is prevented where possible.
Be eager to celebrate public relations successes. Never allow positive third-party endorsement particularly from credible individuals and important personalities slide unnoticed. Flaunt favourable feedback on all your communication channels and ensure top management and members of the Board are in the know where possible.
Champion communication training across departments, particularly staff members whose responsibility demand interface with the company’s stakeholders including customers, suppliers, regulators, media etc. It is important that every inter-facing staff is empowered to communicate effectively, and also communicate in the language of the business.
Keep and share up-to-date reports of PR initiatives with top management. Highlight every PR-driven programme and share with all departmental heads to ensure the impact of the efforts is felt. Imagine how visibility makes people feel in the cause of performing their official responsibility.
Establish the connection between your public relations objectives and the goal of the business. The PR initiative must be relatable to the goal of the business within the quarter, half-yearly and the entire year of business operations. Ensure that the PR efforts connect with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
Be intentional about knowing the business of your organization. This will help you to speak the language of the business and fast-track your integration into the business ecosystem. If you are a PR manager in a publishing company or a maritime organization, you should have more than basic knowledge of publishing or maritime. It requires deliberate effort to equip yourself to function optimally in your role and earn you the deserved respect as a communication manager or PR manager.
Never shy away from communicating the risk of neglecting PR and the potential implication for business and reputation. It is important you deploy every opportunity at engaging top management and colleagues to emphasize the value PR brings to the business; and the danger of not engaging PR productively and functionally.
Lastly, public relations is a management function. Let your consistency in driving your professionalism, your knowledge and technical know-how, the knowledge of your organization’s industry, knowledge of the business environment and economy space, your clouts in the social and media space and the network you keep are all pointers to the level of support, acceptance, respect and placement within the corporate environment and the organization you represent.
Mayowa, a fellow of NIPR is the COO of Stepcraft Nigeria Ltd