The Pragmatism of Public Relations

Posted by

Newsjacking allows brands to demonstrate relevance and catch a ride on the day’s headlines. Advertising buys column inches. Reputation builds goodwill. Actions prove trustworthiness.

PR spin is like making a wish, hoping it will come true. PR stunts are great for headlines and brand awareness.

Welcome to the 21st century Public Relations mix – a landscape constantly changing, one that is directly proportional with the ever-increasing pragmatism and inquisitiveness of our societal make up.

Large businesses want more from Public Relations today. Telling a lovely story (inflated or not), having several features in a variety of magazines/dailies, and making something “go away” no longer suffice.

The landscape many of us are working or have been used to work in is dramatically changing. More PR agencies will need to reinvent and repurpose their often change-resilient and “same old same old” models to survive.

Many clients no longer need us to write a news story – there’s a nice AI application doing that already.

Many no longer need coverage clippings which they can get in the form of a nice coverage book. Journalists need us if they trust us; if they don’t, they go straight to the CEO / Director / Chairman or any source in the organisation who’s willing to give them a comment.

We are no longer the existential conduit of information transmission, positioning and validation for an organisation. What was, and maybe still is for many, their main “activity”, is gone or will be gone very soon.

PR practitioners today require a practical and more pragmatic hard line. We cannot talk about a business or organisation unless we have a good understanding of the landscape it operates in. Businesses and organisations are interconnected, and more and more products and services cater for a diverse audience, geographically spread and purpose-driven.

Naivety and superficiality may fit in perfectly in a school play, but they no longer cut it in Public Relations, Corporate Affairs or Strategic Communication.

Telling stories (or porkies) is no longer enough; businesses can hire professional writers or scriptwriters to do that for them.

Where does that leave us, then?

To begin with, I would suggest everyone familiarised themselves with the Global Alliance’s Capability Framework – the 21st century senior PR practitioner should be able to master all those skills, and much more.

Be like a child; be inquisitive and never stop asking “why?” – it’s the single most powerful question you can ever ask, the one that can provide you with almost all the answers you need. It also saves you from taking on work and agreeing to projects which are doomed from the start.

Anything you held dear in terms of tactics is likely to be completely taken over by automation and artificial intelligence in the next 5-6 years.

Your relevance and career as a PR practitioner will mainly be dependent on your ability to advise and influence, pre-empt and protect, analyse and strategize, deliver on mid to long-term outcomes and against tight KPIs and, most of all, on your professional competence.

What is the actual value you can bring to any organisation?

What is it that you can do that will set you apart?

What is that “thing” that you are able to deliver that will demonstrate your knowledge and competence?

Are you ready to be held accountable for your advice?

How will you help an organisation stand out among its competitors?

What tangible impact do trust and reputation have for your organisation on that market, in that region, and among that group?

You don’t have an awful lot of time left to answer these questions.

It’s the 21st century – be driven by pragmatism, be inquisitive and distrusting, keep a cool head and never “pray that it will go away”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.