“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” – PRSA

Communications must be a core element in the business planning process. That includes decisions on pricing, supply chain, and brand marketing.

I have always believed one of the core competencies of the public relations professional has always been to understand those myriad of stakeholder interests and how they intersect. Our base instinct is to listen first and talk second. Most advertisers, on the other hand, are best at communicating what they want to say. Through this lens, it makes total sense that the PR firm would lead. We think both differently and globally.

Communication strategies today require us to passionately seek a deep, authentic point of alignment between our brand’s values and character and the interests and instincts of our various stakeholders. We must stand for something larger than ourselves, but also something that is honestly about us as well. We need to communicate with creativity and emotion about that big idea, and we must also advocate for it arm-in-arm with our stakeholders.

Sometimes we will lead, but we must just as often be prepared to support, empower, educate and inform. It is beyond dispute that lines between advertising and PR, owned and borrowed media have blurred, with social media serving as the great connector. The explosion of information sources and sophisticated tools that help people navigate them have fundamentally shifted control into the hands of the readers and viewers and away from professional content creators. We can no longer communicate differently market-by-market; we need to recognize the powerful links emerging across a globally connected world. Our clients must understand these powerful trends. As a result, today, clients are seeing guidance and constantly looking for their PR Firms to provide clear road maps through this complex labyrinth and help them achieve optimal service delivery without preconceived ideas about the channels.

The big idea here is the recognition that we can no longer conceive campaigns designed around what we want to say about our companies and brands. No matter how creative, compelling and emotional the appeal, these kinds of campaigns are increasingly bound to fail. Companies must take a bold step into a new era of aligning their goals with their stakeholder expectations, and fueling trust and shared value across all audiences. The faster companies adapt, the more competitive they will become in this ever-changing global marketplace.

It’s time for PR professionals to become senior members of the group of advisors who determine company policy and shape communications. Unlike any of the others, we can stand with one foot on the policy side and one foot on the communications side. We can unseat the lawyers, the force for control, with our voice for our stakeholders and transparency.

What will this mean for business? We will see:

  1. Corporations and brands regain trust with their publics as they move from defense to offense
  2. Employees established as first among stakeholders
  3. New products that emanate from the passion of brand advocates
  4. Supply chains and vendor relationships acknowledging shared value
  5. The transition from a compliance-based culture to one that is values based

One of the founding fathers of public relations, Edward Bernays, understood the principles of public engagement and the vital role of research in our profession. In 1927 Bernays wrote an essay that said:

“Above all, the public relations counselor wants to foster important movements that are socially constructive and secure public cooperation and approval of them. We must aim to make public engagement the standard for our industry.”

    Jack Berkman

President and CEO

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