What PR People Will Do For You feature

What PR People Will Do For You and Why You Should Listen

As a senior leader, your PR team may feel like another species. You may be slightly suspicious that they do not truly back your enthusiasm for something. You may wonder why they are paid so much.

What PR People Will Do For You

The wider world remains sceptical that PR people do anything useful; they tend to be treated as passengers, and in many but not all cases, disrespected by the journalists they work with. Internally, there is a strong tendency to side-line or ignore PR advice, although this is certainly not always true.

In my view, PR people are much maligned. They are essential to protecting and enhancing the reputation of both individuals and brands.

There are many different tasks that fall under the ‘PR’ banner – some more important in one organisation versus another.

Here are five essential things your PR team will do for you:

First and foremost PR people are the antidote to group think. Internally, for most people, it is extremely difficult to understand how something will play in public. Whether that is a decision to change the formula of a product, make some grand ESG commitments or agree to a profile interview with a mainstream newspaper.

What may sound like a reasonable, logical argument to a business leader, can be ‘taken out of context’ and used to prove the individual is out of touch or a villain, by a clever journalist. Your PR advisor is the person who will always warn you.

Recent examples of people who either did not consult or ignored PR advice:

Stuart Kirk at HSBC – ‘Who cares if Miami is under water in 100 years’ time’

BoE Governor Andrew Bailey – who agreed (rather than said) that people should modify their pay demands to
help fight inflation.

Secondly, good PR people know their journalists. They have extensive knowledge of and often personal or professional relationships with the journalists that you as the interviewee, are likely to meet once in your lifetime. This has a whole host of benefits from being able to predict how a journalist will react based on what they have written before, but also more influence if there is a misspeak that your organisation would prefer did not make it into print. No one can guarantee a damaging quote can be neutralised, but there is a better chance if there is already a relationship in place.

Thirdly, if you want good news to get out there, you will need someone who can work out what will interest either a journalist or journalists in general. A shiny new policy may be an important step-change for you and your organisation, but it’s unlikely a journalist will recognise or care without a clear explanation and some proof points.

What PR People Will Do For You

Fourthly, there is the strategy. Do you speak to one journalist or many and if many in what order? Do you release information under embargo, or drip it into the market? Do you provide an exclusive interview or spend all morning dealing with one journalist after another? Do you do print and web interviews but not broadcast, or trade interviews but not bother to try with mainstream media? Do you have a different set of messages for trade press compared to Bloomberg TV? This is what you pay your PR person to advise on.

Fifth, and perhaps least important, the PR people write the words. They check the facts, find the real numbers and get them signed off. Often, they will write the quotes. In short, they will do all the work that takes a general idea and transitions it into a signed-off press release or executive summary on Twitter.

Good PR people have to be able to ‘speak truth unto power’: good leaders have to recognise that PR is a professional skill that is always worth paying attention to.

I am sure I have missed some other really important things PR people do … let me know below or on LinkedIn.

Images from: 123rf.com

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