An article in a UK newspaper last year claimed more public relations professionals (aka PRs) and fewer journalists threatens democracy.
As much as I’d love to wield that amount of power, I don’t think our profession can bring down a form of government that has been in existence for thousands of years.
The article was written by Roy Greenslade, a professor of journalism and former editor of the Daily Mirror. In it he focuses on the role of the PR to produce ‘’oven-ready’’ copy and states the 24 hour news cycle, demand for multimedia content, and fewer journalists will result in more PR driven stories.
Yet, media relations is just one aspect of PR and Greenslade’s article reveals a misunderstanding shared by many –believing the job of a PR is purely to put a spin on a story, either keeping bad news out of the media or putting a positive slant on it.
I won’t deny there is a certain truth to this, the number of ex-journalists employed by PR agencies shows there is some proof in the pudding, yet the role of a PR is much broader.
Our job is about enhancing the reputation of our employer or client to help deliver business success. This could take many forms, from sponsorship to develop community relations through to an internal communications program to motivate and engage staff.
We provide counsel to senior business leaders, encourage direct interaction with customers and, in many cases, are the driving force behind transparent communications.
For WA companies looking to hire a PR consultant, either in-house or via an agency, I urge you to consider these four things:
1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.
- Determine your business objectives and be realistic about how PR will help achieve these.
2. Understand who you want to communicate to and what you want to say.
- Clearly identify your target audience – general public is too broad – and have an understanding of what you would like to say to them.
3. Don’t just rely on the media to communicate with your target audience.
- Is the media the most effective channel or could you communicate directly instead?
4. How will you measure your PR efforts?
- A bunch of articles left in reception does not mean you were successful. Setting SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – objectives at the outset will help determine this.
Next time you speak to your in-house PR or agency, just remember: PR doesn’t stand for Press Release.
This article was originally written by Rebecca Johnston for The West Australian.