Management Today states, in an article about how PR took over the world, that “there’s a perception in some quarters that PR is just about transmitting a message. It’s not. It’s first and foremost about interpreting reality, ‘reading the Zeitgeist’”.
“A good PR has to be an outsider” Simon Lewis (former ‘PR for the Queen’) is quoted. The idea is that PR people have to be prepared to tell hard truths. An example being that the banks struggling to accept being public enemy number one, is no good for anyone.
Although it should be obvious that those willing to listen to honesty, take counsel and act accordingly, have a huge advantage over those who simply bury their heads in the sand – the truth is not always welcome.
Arthur W. Page, the first PR man to serve on the board of a major public company believed that, “The public perception of an organisation is determined 90 per cent by what it does and 10 per cent by what it says”. If PR is about interpreting as well as transmitting then ‘what a company does’ and ‘what a company says’ are inseparably linked and a percentage like ten per cent simply doesn’t make sense. So, what limits the potential limitless PR?
It’s not surprising that some organisations are attracted to teams of PRs offering the world for minimal investment from them (in terms of time and money). This, I feel is what limits PR. If PR agencies continue to try and out do each other by cutting fees and over promising; the industry’s reputation (ironically) will be damaged in the long run, as ‘KPIs’ or ‘deliverables’ will be impossible to meet within the budget.
Operating as a silo, just spreading or ‘transmitting’ company news, will only go so far. Can you imagine ‘talking’ to a person and they hear nothing you say but keep speaking themselves? You probably wouldn’t ‘talk’ to them for very long. Organisations need to realise, first and foremost, an investment is needed and that investment is listening.
Although a PR has to be able to understand an outsider’s perspective, they ultimately need to be linked into the heart of the business and this requires a healthy artery in the form of an in-house contact that ‘gets’ PR.
PRs can rarely operate alone. Completely outsourcing a reputation cannot be done. It’s important organisations recognise that an investment is required.