Let me preface this post by saying I generally LOATHE the bash PR (or marketing or social media) meme. It serves little purpose, mostly because the people doing the bashing don’t offer up the criticism constructively, or with any reasonable alternatives to pursue in its place. Even though I’m not a traditional communications pro, I do work for a communications firm, and work closely with our account executives to provide solutions to client issues. I also read plenty of blogs, engage people on Twitter and meet people at conferences and events so I think I have a pretty good sense for what the industry is generally thinking (though, I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m misguided here).
What I’ve noticed in my “travels” is that we, as communications pros, often come off the tracks in the same places. This isn’t going to be your typical mud slinging meme because I find that kind of dialogue nauseating. Rather, this is just meant as an outline of my thoughts on where we are as an industry and what we could do better collectively.
- You don’t represent you – Lauren Fernandez, who I respect very much as a PR pro, had an excellent post yesterday about conforming to social media or the brand that we work for. It really had me thinking as quite often I think we try to conform to the social media community’s standards and not those of our brands. First and foremost, communications pros represent brands. Whether you work for a corporation, association, non-profit organization or an agency, you represent those brands FIRST. Your primary goal should be conforming to whatever makes your “client” look the best. If that means you are an active participant on Twitter, then so be it, but don’t lose sight of who you are supposed to be representing…It isn’t you!
- High Self-Orientation and Low Trust – Every communications pro should read The Trusted Advisor. In addition to being a quality read, you’ll learn quite a bit about how to demonstrate to your client or boss that you are highly credible, have low self-orientation and by consequence have high levels of trust within that organization. In too many cases, we’re focused on what impacts OUR bottom line and not the bottom line of our stakeholders. Focus on them first and you’ll always come out a winner.
- Don’t Focus on the Transaction – Getting a hit for your client in their key publications is fantastic, but what does that ultimately mean? Did it contribute it some meaningful way to their business? Did it lead to other hits? Did it portray the key messages you wanted it to portray? Said another way, hits aren’t everything. The relationships you develop with stakeholders will far outweigh that ONE hit you received in the key trade publication.
- Offer Business Solutions First – We are often fond of saying that we are business people first and communicators second. I’ll say this much, clients/bosses can recognize right away if you are the other way around. Offer to provide communications solutions that solve business problems and you’ll forever be a winner.
- Don’t forget about the ROI! – Just because there are some who argue that ROI for things like social media are elusive, or that we shouldn’t place as much emphasis on ROI in social media at least right now, doesn’t mean your bosses and clients wont. They want to know how doing what you are purposing to do will contribute to the bottom line. How did it increase sales? How did it lower costs? Did it lead to higher retention rates among employees? All things that have meaningful bottom line impact. Just because calculating ROI is hard (it’s not, but if you need a refresher consult Olivier Blanchard), or you don’t think true ROI can be shown for PR/SM (you are wrong by the way), doesn’t mean your boss is going to give you a pass. You need to be able to answer the ROI question before he/she asks you, especially if you want to continue maintaining the budget you’ve been maintaining.
So these are just a few things I think we, as communications pros could do better. What else is there? Is there something in your experience that would refute any of these notions? Can’t wait to hear your views!