I have been reminded this week of just how important it is for PR practitioners to take on the role of connectors in an organisation – I describe myself as being a ‘professional connector’.
If you work in Public Relations, you experience first hand the power of PR when it is embedded across all areas of an organisation. We need to have our fingers in many pies, and unfortunately, not all colleagues appreciate or understand this. For an organisation to treat PR as a silo or relegate it to the end-of-the-line once decisions are made elsewhere is not quite heading for disaster, but … it’s close.
At its core, public relations is about relationships. Most people think of an organisation’s relationships in terms of its external stakeholders, but PR is a natural connector with internal stakeholders too.
Giving your PR team ‘permission’ to get under the skin of the organisation, and understand what is going on across the board, means they can do what they are good at … connecting the dots.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
I have worked with individuals and organisations who have viewed PR as an angel, the devil and every shade in-between. I name no names but the examples below from my own experience will help you come to your own conclusion on how PR worked as a connector.
At one client I encountered siloed internal departments. After spending time with the relevant staff, it became apparent that they did not talk to other departments, had little awareness of what other departments were working on, and were certainly not used to doing so. Suggestions made by one department – which sounded totally plausible – were shot down by another as impractical or not acceptable to the membership. It was my role to find commonalities and to link these together so I could recommend a strategy to get the results they needed for the profession.
At another client, I had a finger in each of the strategic areas of the business, which meant I understood how projects were inter-linked. When I was asked to review a strategy, I could see straight away that the messaging and focus would be improved by including findings from other areas of the organisation. The departments worked well together – that was not an issue – but by making me aware of what the different areas of the business were doing I was able to connect the dots and put the right staff teams in touch to work with each other. The output was cohesive and generated better results for the organisation than if these projects took place in isolation.
The third instance involved an organisation that was brilliant at team work and collaboration, apart from one Head of Department. This individual had an issue with the PR function as he believed (wrongly) that whatever information he gave us would end up in the press. This was not a personality issue, it was simply down to the misunderstanding of one person. It took a long time… and I mean a very long time … for him to stop blocking us and for it to sink in that by making the PR team aware of what was going on in his area, we would connect this across the organisation to not only create some great and powerful stories which benefited him and made his job easier, but also made the organisation work more effectively … together.
When PR works best
PR is most effective when it is an integral part of the business and part of the whole story, not used as a bolt-on when decisions are made or to fire-fight. Giving your PR team visibility across the whole organisation allows them to find the commonalities and create the whole picture.
As an independent practitioner, I am often called in to work on stand-alone projects – either because of a lack of internal resource, because of my specialist knowledge, or because I have no baggage or corporate memory to taint or influence my recommendations. Giving me access to all areas of your organisation means I can see what fits where, and what goes with what … let me connect your dots.