These are uncertain times.
You’d have been hard pressed to imagine we’d end the year in a more precarious climate than we entered it.
Bourgeoning political uncertainty – coupled with volatile financial markets – means uncertainty will continue to be a prevalent theme in 2019 and beyond.
But how can communications professionals make their mark against the backdrop of global instability?
Here are three ways public relations professionals can deliver greater value for clients and organisations in 2019.
#1 Restoring civility
Standards in public discourse hit new lows in 2018.
It’s easy to forget this was a year in which the ex foreign secretary described people in burkas as “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”, while the leader of the opposition described pro-Israeli activists as “Zionists”.
2018 was the year immoderate rhetoric penetrated public discourse.
Language shapes the world around us. Failure to uphold basic standards of respect in communication has real-world consequences.
In the UK, hate crimes based on religious discrimination rose 40% in the last year, while in the US a fanatical Trump supporter sent pipe bombs to 13 of the President’s critics.
When decency is cast aside from language, the result is a more fragmented and confrontational society. There can be no clearer case for restoring civility to public communication.
PR professionals can and should make a difference to society’s language. It’s our responsibility to uphold standards of decency in communication. That means remembering that language is a loaded weapon.
#2 Holding up the mirror
As economic and political climates have drastically evolved, so too have the expectations placed on PR professionals.
A PR professional’s role is as much as about influencing corporate behaviour as it is about shaping narratives. It’s incumbent on communicators to spot lapses in ethical behaviour at first sight.
Effective PR professionals are blessed with an understanding of context and an ability to see events through the eyes of different stakeholders. Those skills are at a premium.
Ethical collapses at Carillion and Nissan this year evidenced the need for businesses to bring in professionals with the foresight and confidence to confront bad behaviour. PR professionals who can speak truth to power are needed now more than ever.
#3 Tell the truth
Strategic PR professionals are perfectly placed to deliver the clarity that businesses crave during these uncertain times. From internal communication, to public affairs and corporate comms, there are tremendous opportunities for PR professionals in this new landscape.
But why should we be trusted with these opportunities if we can’t uphold basic ethical principles?
The need to tell the truth is painstakingly obvious but too many within our industry are still happy to overstate or blatantly lie to satisfy a short-term goal.
To the outside world, we can only shake off our reputation as mischievous media tacticians if we take our professional commitments seriously and cut the crap.
Corporate dishonesty will invariably be exposed. If you’re dishonest in this business, you’re incompetent.
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