Students, associates, managers and executives all face different challenges in the industry tied to the shifting demands on our industry and skills. After numerous discussions with PR professionals at the Canadian Public Relations Society’s National Conference, here the top 3 pain points—and solutions—they shared.
The greatest struggle for PR today is tying activities to business metrics and communicating the value of our work to boards and executives. Nadine De Lisle, director of communications for Manitoba Community Housing, said that it often takes a crisis to prove our value to the executive, but it shouldn’t have to be that way. When PR has a seat at the boardroom table as a trusted advisor, better decisions are made and they are communicated more effectively.
SOLUTION: Speak the language of executives. If your business leaders are focused on earnings, market share and lead conversion, then you should too. “You need to communicate your plans in a way that will resonate with your executives,” said Richard Liebrecht, strategic planner at Incite Marketing in Edmonton. Connecting PR activities to business metrics takes planning, tracking and strict methodology, but when you have the numbers to back up your plans people listen.
“It is also in the style of the plan your present,” said Liebrecht. “Executives spend most of their time trying to distill a great deal of information and chart a clear simple direction, you need to help them do that.”
For many practitioners, keeping up with the evolution of the industry means building new skill sets like web design, social media management and marketing automation. These are all useful assets in PR, but not historically part of the training curriculum—until now. The challenge for those who are not just out of university arises in learning and becoming proficient in these new skills in order to utilize them for clients’ campaigns.
#CPRS2015 For PR firms leaders, Internet is still territory to explore, rather than to live in. Let’s debate with Laura at the World Café
— Daniel Granger (@DGrangerOSQ) May 30, 2015
SOLUTION: Prioritize and ask for help. For practitioners working on large teams, speak with management about your goals to better direct them on what techniques you should be learning, which will benefit the business in the end. If a team already has two social media experts, it might be more valuable to learn about marketing automation or search engine optimization instead. Similarly, reaching out to those internal experts to learn more is a great way to gain experience and develop these new skills without additional cost to the company.
In some organizations, social media management is owned entirely by the marketing department rather than PR—though PR teams are increasingly moving into that department structure. However, where this is not yet the company structure, having social media out of the PR team’s hands is a silo problem where social is viewed as a form of advertising instead of external communications. On top of that, each employee can operate their own account—the result of which is a great deal of external communication from the company without training or review by PR. This can create risk for the brand and tension within teams.
SOLUTION: Train others and be a great example. By offering training on social media best practices (as well as your company guidelines) to all departments, you can build internal authority and become the go-to resource for social media help. This way you will be contacted quicker if an issue arises so you can handle the situation before it escalates. As professional communicators, we should strive to be strong examples of social media habits, organizations should follow our lead.