The real PR professionals are stepping forward
Emma Jacobs writing in the Financial Times this week dismissed public relations practitioners as gatekeepers to the media and called for organisations to communicate directly with journalists. If public relations practitioners do little more than act as a switchboard for the media then Ms Jacobs is right, they should get out of the way.
But it is nonsense to suggest that a senior executive can sit by the phone or monitor Twitter day-in day-out, irrespective of their communication skills.
The fact laid bare by the fragmentation of media is that communications is what everyone does within an organisation.
In fact that’s the point I made to Ms Jacobs and it’s the only positive aspect about the public relations profession that she included in the article.
Social media has no respect for the traditional hierarchies within an organisation. Organisations are porous. Messages are shared via text, email, and social networks.
There is no longer any distinction between internal audiences or publics, typically employees, and external audiences.
With the right communication strategies, content and engagement, employees have the potential to be the most powerful, and crucially, trusted advocates for an organisation.
That engagement requires professional expertise. Public relations has a role in listening and engagement in every department within a modern organisation.
The article showed that when an organisation adopts a communication strategy and makes its reputation the responsibility of every employee, there are massive benefits.
But like everything else, public relations can be done well or badly. There are plenty of so-called PR professionals that will do a bad job, particularly if an organisation doesn’t have a clear vision and purpose.
Just as the notion of management as a profession emerged in the 1950s, professional standards in public relations are developing rapidly. Leading this movement are the accountable, Accredited and Chartered Members of the CIPR.
These individuals have a deep rooted commitment to qualifications, a Code of Conduct, Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and advancing the reputation of the profession.
There has never been such an exciting time to work in our business. I hope that I have the opportunity to share that story with Ms Jacobs soon.
This blog post has also been published on the CIPR Conversation.