Why companies need to get more business-like with PR
21 August 2013, Blog
The first question that businesses should ask when devising a communications strategy is ‘why are we doing this?’ but whilst it sounds so obvious it often isn’t considered at the outset
Instead we see a disconnect between the business and the communications activities. This can be down to underinvestment by companies in personnel responsible for communications, who don’t take a big picture perspective or poor external advice which does not challenge the status quo. The outcome of both is more a tactically led communications programme which is centred on getting media coverage.
However, all this is meaningless if it lacks purpose and accountability. It can and does result in businesses wasting thousands of pounds on communications initiatives.
Both businesses and PR companies have to wake up to this fact otherwise both will lose reputation in the process.
So what can be done to turn this situation around so companies and their PR advisers can achieve successful results for the business?
1) Answer the ‘why’
Think about the objectives for your communications programme in line with your business plan or vision: is it to attract funding, recruit staff, raise awareness of new products or services, and position your role in the local communities you serve, or manage effective change during transition.
Setting clear aims enable a focussed and targeted programme to be developed in line with business requirements and targets. It also provides a set of metrics to benchmark the effectiveness of communications.
2) Know your audience
At the planning stage also map out all stakeholders you want to reach out to depending on the communications objectives you have set. These could include customers, prospects, strategic partners, investors, existing and prospective staff, opinion formers, intermediaries or policy makers. Once these are agreed ensure you tailor messaging for each of these target audiences. Too often communications are one size fits all.
3) Don’t do communications on the cheap
Remember communications is closely tied to your reputation so you need to always remind yourself what price is a strong reputation.
Ideally the person who is responsible for directing communications should have specialist expertise but with an understanding of the broader mix, together with business acumen. The latter is crucial to ensure the link between communications and business outcomes.
4) Don’t see PR as just media relations
PR is much more. Gaining positive media coverage is just one opportunity. Remember PR is about communicating with your target audiences and this can take many other forms, from using different event formats to engaging online through social media. The trick is to understand your audience and how they like to be communicated to.
5) Take an integrated approach to communications
The growth of communications channels with the advent of new media presents a multitude of opportunities – SEO, PPC, social media, webinars and Apps. Along with traditional media these opportunities can be maximised by working together so it is more important than ever to develop an integrated comms plan. This reinforces the need for rounded communications professionals as the traditional boundaries between PR and marketing become increasingly blurred.
6) Measure communications
Through our experience there is a fixation on outputs at the expense of actual business outcomes. This is why it’s so important to agree communications objectives at the beginning of the programme as these should form the basis of metrics for the programme.
Embedding metric setting and measurement will require the involvement of others within the business as appropriate – for example the HR director if the focus is on retaining and acquiring people; the finance director if the focus is on raising funding.
6) Ensure your head of communications sits on the board
Rarely is the profession represented at board level yet communications should underpin a company’s reputation management and business strategy. Giving communications a seat at the boardroom table will enable companies to harness the full potential of a connected PR and business strategy.
Managing Director of JBP’s Bristol office, Chris Lawrance has some 25 years’ experience in the PR industry and has expertise across the full communications mix. At JBP he is responsible for business strategy, client development and relations and new business.