I had to pull myself up for how my language was impacting on people earlier this week. The words were unwittingly creating an unhelpful impression and I suddenly started to see the impact it was having. Today I was working as part of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Foresight Panel and the issue came up again.
The problem is that as a profession we have been really poor at doing our own PR. Few people outside of the industry know who we are and what we do. This has been the case over many years and we are still failing to address the issue. I am not sure why it has happened. It could be that we have been too busy working for our clients or that we have been trying to avoid being in the spotlight. But whatever it is we need to start tackling it now if we are ever to achieve our full potential both as individuals and as a profession.
We spend a lot of time talking about how PR and communication is more than just a support function and it needs to be heard in the boardroom. Over recent years in many organisations and the public sector we have seen cuts that have pushed communicators further away from the top table.
It is only us as practitioners that can change this and start to emphasise the business benefits that a strategic approach to communication and PR can bring. It starts with how we talk about ourselves and our work, and most importantly we have to have the confidence in what we do as a strategic function.
This is easier than it sounds. If you have been downgraded to sit away from the decision making and are told to just say good things about the business then you may feel bruised. The key is you have to ‘fake it until you make it’ as a wise woman once said to me.
You need to start talking as if you are operating at boardroom level. Understand the nuts and bolts of the business and what makes it tick. See yourself working as a strategic advisor that provides guidance in the same way as the head of finance or the head of legal. In short, have some self-belief that as a communicator you are more than just tactical delivery. If this doesn’t start to improve the situation then it may be time to look at whether it is the right organisation to be in.
Alongside that we have to take firm control of our career and development. If we want to operate at the top level then we must show continuous professional development and a willingness to learn and step out of the communication world that we know. If we know where we want to be then we can make the right moves and steps towards reaching that goal.
The time is right for us to start to do PR for PR, in fact with the global events taking place it is now critical. We have to use language to support our path into the boardroom.
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