The Value of Public Relations

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If you tell others over and over again that you know what you’re doing, that you’re committed to be the best you can be, and that you understand the strategic role Public Relations plays in business, you might get somewhere.

But, when a business leader such as Heathrow Airport’s CEO argues publicly that Public Relations and Communication matter enormously and that “it’s a real skill to be able to think at the strategic level and then understand the implications at the very local level”, then the recognition of PR as a strategic management function may happen sooner than we think.

Under the leadership of its 2018 President, Sarah Hall, CIPR has taken an aggressive and business focussed approach, one that couldn’t have come at a better time. To survive and be credible, we need to be able to demonstrate our added value to business: what we can bring, what we can do, and why we are needed – and we need to do this very fast.

Two years ago, building on Sarah’s Future Practitioner Forum, the Foresight Panel was set up and I was asked to chair it. It was a “one time” Panel, one whose main task was to:

“take a snapshot of the outside world’s perception of our industry in terms of its strategic management function and of our role in supporting governments, business and trade services, listed organisations and financial organisations to engage with their publics, further their customer value proposition, build and consolidate their reputation and, most importantly, providing them with strategic advice.”

Today, and in the years to come, I believe we have a sacred duty as PR practitioners: to demonstrate to those we work with, work for and to those who follow in our footsteps that Public Relations is a strategic management function, that we can have a massive input into and impact on any business’ reputation, growth, development, sustainability and risk mitigation.

While the findings of the Foresight Panel have never been made public nor will they ever be since they were meant to inform the then CIPR Board on potential actions on key strategic issues, it became clear that, as an industry, we were struggling for recognition as a strategic management function.

It’s high time we changed that perception, individually and collectively. I am therefore very happy to see that CIPR’s new #PRPays campaign has taken the first steps towards what I hope will become not just a national but an international moment of pride, reflection and discussion: we can be strategic,  we can have value, we do matter, we can provide invaluable strategic advice and support to CEOs and Boards, and there is absolutely nothing and no one to stop us achieving our full potential.

In the interview Koray Camgoz (a young Chart.PR with incredible potential) has taken of Mr Holland-Kaye (Heathrow’s CEO), which you can watch in full below, the latter makes a very interesting point:

“People often think that communication is more about message than it is about substance.”

And sadly, Mr Holland-Kaye is right since I’ve heard similar comments very often. One thing is very clear and we should ensure it is also clear to all those we come in contact with: we aren’t window dressers, we are part of the building blocks of trust, credibility and reputation of any organisation.

Two weeks ago, in reply to a very simplistic remark someone made on Twitter with regard to PR and its Return on Investment, I said this:

PR is more than an investment: it is a dialogue, a relationship, a trust-based commodity. Not every PR action can be quantified in ROI – we are not marketing; we don’t sell, we build and create, we save and develop.

And that, my friends, is the value of PR.


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