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Making the case for real PR value

Earlier this year, one of many PR related reports the social landscape is rife with was published: Global Communications Report. What I found particularly interesting was the fact that those organisations surveyed found talent being The PR Industry’s Critical Challenge.

I would argue that the PR industry’s fundamental problem is not talent retention and recruitment but the employers’ unwillingness to shift their focus from short term deliverables to strategic ones. Talent, not just in PR but in any other industry, takes time to develop and innate or acquired skills need to be appropriately honed.

Surprising, to me at least, is this constant discussion about social media platforms – old and new – and how ‘digital skills’ need to be either this or that. ‘Digital’ is not a skill – the skill doesn’t lie in one’s ability to post content online, measure its impact and be able to report back on it. In my letter to 2016 BledComm, I have stated that:

“Learning about media relations, video production and social media engagement platforms – while very useful – can hardly be expected to represent the principle pillars of practitioner knowledge.”

PR seems to be very quickly leaning towards the wrong side of the learning spectrum. We are less and less talking about the competitive edge we can provide our Clients with; about the input we can have on their business development strategies and market positioning; about the USPs we have identified which could help them stand out from their competitors; about the necessity of understanding their customers/service users/suppliers/regulators.

Instead, we seem to be talking about Facebook and its new video feeds, about Snapchat and its advertising value corroborated with reaching out a demographic group of the society, about Instagram and brand recognition. Really? How about we spoke about these as mere channels of reaction and interaction that support the Client reaching their business objectives of A, B, C?

If we continue to focus on tactics and outputs as opposed to strategy and outcomes, PR not only will find it harder and harder to find a well-deserved seat for itself at the Boardroom table – it will also find it harder to argue the case of its practitioners’ understanding, knowledge of and direct input into the business’ growth and strategy.

After all, when we talk about listed companies and multinationals, why would any C-suite executive be ready to listen to our advice when all we seem to be knowledgeable of or interested in is ‘digital skills’? We often argue that perception is reality – I’m afraid that, in PR industry’s case, it is starting to look like it.

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Founding Chartered PR Practitioner, CIPR Board member (2018), former UK Government Communication Services and Institute of Directors mentor, published author and university lecturer, Ella has almost 20 years of high level government and international organisations experience in corporate reputation, leadership and crisis management, across business disciplines and governments, including investment markets, lender organisations, national and international media, NGOs and affected communities. She is a 2014 Service Award Winner of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Assessor of CIPR's Chartered Scheme, an elected member of the CIPR Council (2017-2018), Founder of CIPR’s Energy Leadership Platform, former Chair of CIPR’s Foresight Panel and a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management. She handled some of the most prominent international crisis of recent times, she developed the Leadership Development Programme for SPE’s MENA young engineers and she has also been an adviser to several governments on their national branding strategies. Her list of clients includes McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Total, BP, Shell, Centrica, KazTransOil, Averda, The World Bank, Private Investment Development Group, the European Commission, the European Bank For Reconstruction and Development and many others. She is also Robert Gordon University's Lead Trainer for the Crisis Communication Diploma (CIPR Specialist Diploma).

  1. You couldn’t be more right, Jason. Fully and totally agree with you.
    If we want anything to change, we need to speak up and make the case for PR a strategic discipline.

  2. Unfortunately this is true.

    When I started my career training included how to craft a great press release, how to run a press conference, interview techniques and the deadlines of the various newspapers. It was great for a junior member of staff. However, what became clear was that it was very tactical.

    Today we have simply replaced all of that with top tips to help with your SEO, the secrets of that new algorithm (to be replaced in six months time) and five new social media networks that you need to know about just in case they make it past 100 users. Still very tactical, still more like a craft than a profession or a strategic discipline.

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