“PR is a mix of journalism, psychology, and lawyering – it’s an ever-changing and always interesting landscape.” – Ronn Torossian
This saying makes me think, there was a time the industry outsiders considered public relations as a unidirectional profession, loosely equated to media relations. From being considered as an information dissemination tool for government departments, Public Relations has come a long way in a few decades. The evolution of the industry and the augmented scope of work has transformed this imagery.
In my experience as an in-house communicator, today, the written and unwritten responsibilities of a corporate communicator go way beyond media relations. Now PR is a multi-dimensional profession, and its practitioners don various hats. I would like to particularly draw attention to the increased need for a deep understanding of human behavior, analytical skills, storytelling, strong ethical code of conduct, negotiation skills, and business success metrics, in performing the evolved responsibilities. It is time to speak of these broadened skills of a PR professional:
- Organizational Culture Ambassador- In VUCA times, organizations struggle to spin a uniform cultural fabric amongst the employees. PR, with its profound understanding of human (employee) behavior, enables this by creating distinct platforms for organization and employees to have candid conversations. This transparency brings them closer, fostering trust and heartfelt adoption of the company culture.
- Corporate Brand Custodian- As a brand custodian, a corporate communicator connects with the employees and creates awareness about the corporate brand guidelines. The custodian ensures that the company vision and branding aspects like logo and color are represented uniformly and accurately on all occasions. During our job, we get requests to approve in-house departmental videos or brochures, mailers, or event logos. Managing such requests requires a lot of patience and extreme negotiation skills to ensure strict adherence to guidelines.
- Cross-team Collaborator- Bigger the organization higher the chances of success stories buried in corners. The communications team proactively connects with the different departments and seeks knowledge about small unspoken accomplishments. I have unraveled many such incidences during an informal conversation with employees across departments. Such stories acknowledging the individual contribution present a humane face of the organization to the target audiences.
- Crisis Manager- In the modern era of social media, a small issue can become a full-scale crisis. It makes listening to every word being said and spoken about your organization and its brands crucial. The expanding web of online and social media platforms makes this a Herculean task. This close watch empowers quick planning and reaction. And once hit by a crisis, the expert voice of the communicator guides the spokesperson on handling the situation, managing the response, appropriate messaging, and monitoring to report.
- C-Suite Advisor – From change management to breaking the massive organizational development to employees, the senior leadership frequently looks up to the PR lead to share their expert views. It has created a unique place for the PR on the boardroom table. As an advisor to the leadership, a communicator has the fervent duty to support the organization with their understanding of the market, competition, regulatory developments, and media sentiments.
- Organizational Conscience Keeper- While many people see PR professionals as spin doctors, who roll the conversation in their direction, they act as the conscience of the organization. It is one of the most challenging roles played by a Communications professional. As an organizational confidant, a PR professional is trusted with the secrets of the organization and is expected to keep organizational interest before others. However, defying the odds of going against the current, PR is usually the only person in the boardroom influencing everyone towards ethically responsible decisions. This hat is guided by the interest of consumers, employees, and partners and not monetary profits.
The traditional skills of devising communications strategies and bringing them alive with communication tactics are still critical but not all-encompassing. While the understanding and appreciation of the technical expertise of the profession has grown, the need for increased human quotient and the non-technical aspects have become the success mantra.
In its empowered avatar, Public Relations has the power to become a communication counsel, ambassador, and problem solver within the organization, so why limit it!
Indu is a story miner with a panache for societal impact and reputation narratives. She is leading the Corporate Communications for Reckitt Benckiser Health India.