In 2019, public relations teams are more than just brand messengers and firefighters. We know our audiences better than most, we’ve been crafting brand narratives for decades and we can navigate a complex media landscape to get our message in the right hands at the right time. However, in hundreds of organizations, public relations is still not part of an integrated communications team and considered an afterthought.
In those organizations, PR pros are frequently asked to push out a press release after other departments are already executing a strategy or to stomp out a media fire after the organization is already in crisis mode. Lumping PR into the crisis resolution box is a disservice to the skills and capabilities communications leaders bring to the table. However, it doesn’t change the all-too-common view of PR from the perspective of other departments and leadership teams.
We build relationships and demonstrate the value of the brands we represent to outside audiences but how can PR professionals improve standing and influence within our own organizations? After all, an integrated approach to communications drives higher results than disparate teams working in silos.
It starts with a familiar mantra—understanding the goals of our audience (i.e., our colleagues).
Traditionally, we consider our audience to be the reporters and media representatives on the receiving end of a pitch. Similarly, when it comes to increasing our involvement in organizational planning and long-term strategy, we have to pitch to our colleagues and higher-ups like we would a typical audience. In order to get a seat at the table, we have to understand their goals and showcase how we can help accomplish them.
This process starts with understanding our peers — marketing and sales teams — and leaning into how the PR team can better support their ambitions. Lead with questions like:
- What are your department goals for this year?
- What are your biggest pain points?
- Who are you trying to activate?
- What is resonating? What is not resonating?
- What resources do we need to succeed?
Once we have the answers, we can start exploring ways the PR department can help marketing and sales succeed. We want to identify opportunities that add value while reducing organizational redundancies and strengthening internal processes. Today’s professional communicators are knowledge centers – they understand and work to perfect message creation, dissemination and adoption.
Once we have discussed the organization and team goals, the two fastest places to build internal alignment is in messaging and metrics.
While working within an integrated team, PR pros can extend the shelf life of any marketing campaign, increasing results for both marketing and sales teams alike. PR pros offer a nuanced understanding of the fine line that distinguishes sharing our services and selling our products. We understand how media and consumer audiences interact with our audiences and the types of multimedia they crave. We understand the power of a single article in an important trade publication and how to work with marketing to weave the same article into a broader customer journey.
By participating in the creation of the story being told, PR pros can turn a hard sell into a conversion, ultimately leading more people in and through marketing’s sales funnel.
Another area where PR pros can support successful team integration is championing the sharing of metrics. Every user interaction generates a metric. By sharing these metrics across teams, each department can see what worked, what didn’t work and what needs to be modified. Did the message resonate? Did the multimedia asset trigger actions? By sharing data, can see who each message activated – from media to prospects to customers – in real-time and make any necessary pivots to turn lukewarm programs into successes.
As a department, PR possesses a unique ability to understand and speak with the voice of every branch of an organization. Our value is in our utility. Based on the task at hand, we can adopt the voice of the executive office, the sales team or the marketers. Our flexibility puts us in a unique position to engage with outside audiences, consolidate the goals and ambitions of these disparate stakeholders, and also drive greater alignment across the organization. When we understand the goals of each party involved, we can connect shared efforts across the organization and truly demonstrate the value of a connected public relations team.
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