PR Resolutions

30 Dec

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.     
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  • 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.

5 Responses to “PR Resolutions”

  1. Allan Schoenberg January 4, 2010 at 1:11 am #

    This is a topic that continues to come up within the profession and it remains one that I am passionate about. Personally, I think you could have just stopped after your first bullett (Know Your Business and Your Customer). If we want to be taken serious by management and cross-functional colleagues than we must understand the business and how it operates, makes money and competes. I think if you were to survey the C-suite they would probably say the communicators they least value are those that know how to write and edit, and the ones they value the most are those that understand how the company competes and runs. i would also add that the industry itself (PR that is) needs to do a much better job of educating down to our staff/undergrad students on effective business management. I realize I may be generalizing a lot here but we must get better from an educational perspective to move the profession ahead.

  2. Nafaka January 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    I would like to echo Mr. Schoenberg by praising you for focusing on knowledge. This includes both knowledge of the product, consumer, business, and outcome of the PR actions taken. As an undergraduate student, I would like to stand up for my professors at St. Thomas and say that we have been educated on effective business management, but can of course only teach so much before entering the PR world in practice.

    • Dave Folkens January 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm #

      If you’re studying business management you’re doing well because it means you’re working on understanding all aspects of a business, regardless of if it’s hands-on yet or not. That’s a great start and I’m glad to hear that UST is encouraging a good broad look at PR.

      Thanks for the comment Nafaka.

  3. Dave Folkens January 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks Allan,
    Great point indeed. I will *never* say that being a very good writer isn’t essential in becoming a good communications pro but think you’re on target with the C-suite comment. If they view you just as a reviewer and not as a strategic content creator then you have limited opportunity to move your work forward in a collaborative manner. Communicators have an opportunity to really help lead an organization forward if they’re able to both influence top leadership and help them better communicate the overall vision of that senior team.

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