It’s that time of year when we all make resolutions and promises…many of which fall by the wayside by the end of January. However, I think as PR practitioners we need to do better. As we enter into 2010 our profession is still not give the respect I believe it truly deserves. Too often PR is still viewed as “spinning” bad news to make it acceptable to the masses. There are too many outstanding communicators out there to allow this misperception to continue.
How do we kill off this old stereotype? We collectively step-up to make sure that we don’t allow our profession to be viewed as window dressing but a critical function to every company we serve. How? Here’s a few starters.
- Know Your Business and Your Customer
Before you start throwing out ideas about how to obtain more coverage or the greatest new promotional idea, make sure the efforts line up well with the overall strategic plan for the company. Take the time to think about your work from the customer perspective– ask yourself why would a customer care and how would your ideas improve their experience. Also be sure that you’ll be able to measure how your work will have an impact. Even if you fail, you want to learn from the effort rather than have no idea if you made a difference.
- Use New Tools to Improve Your Work
Don’t recycle the plan your boss used when you started. That’s a sure-fire way to maintain a very average program that becomes irrelevant…and doesn’t exactly position you as a great strategic mind. Take advantage of the new technology out there and think critically about how social media may fit in your mix. Look at if there is a fit in your company for Skype to cut down on some costs and encourage better collaboration.
- Don’t Just Use New Tools to Improve Your Work
On the flip side of that last point, please don’t chase after the new shiny toy so much that you forget about core fundamentals. I don’t care how many followers you can get on Twitter if you can’t explain what the heck it is your company does and why anyone in their right mind would use your product or service. Be sure to communicate all the methods you want to use in reaching your audience. Your discussions should never strictly focus on a technology but what the technology can do for you.
- Deliver What Reporters Need
One of the issues that hounds our field is the “smile and dial” approach where a PR person is asked, typically by a client, to just call your reporter friends and pitch this great new product. Here’s the problem, if you have no idea what the product does or (even worse) the product is junk and you still pitch it then it’s your reputation that takes the hit. We need to be smart enough and strong enough to push back to our companies and clients if there is no valid news angle.
- Be an advocate for communications
This is especially aimed at my corporate readers more than agency but it applies to us all. If you are being paid to be an expert communicator, you also need to help others in your organization understand the true importance of the role. If you have a truly groundbreaking product that nobody knows about, then you have nothing. If communications is always viewed as the least important part of a planning session then you know something is critically wrong culturally and you need to change it. Take the time to explain (supported by examples of your results) the value of communications and be a leader in speaking up for the importance of our profession.
So, in 2010 let’s all resolve to eliminate the missteps that plague our profession. Let’s do a little PR work on PR this year. What else belongs on this list? What else can we do to improve our collective reputations? Let’s think big this year and make some real change.