Richard Edelman has a fascinating post that links into his Grunig Lecture (courtesy of Judy Gombita). What is good about this kind of reflection is that it comes from someone heading up a major consultancy group – which it is to be hoped would be influenced by the insight of its figurehead.
Often those of us who reflect on PR can feel like we are far removed from the behaviour and thinking of “practitioners”, but I truly believe we are in tune with what bosses would genuinely like their PR team to offer.
Of course, there are still tactical delivery issues as not everyone has the opportunity to work at the strategic end, counselling senior executives. And in respect of consultancies, such as Edelman, they focus on delivering campaigns to meet client needs.
But PR implementation becomes more effective when it is guided by strategic approaches that support aspects such as public engagement which Richard speaks about.
Every press release, every event, every comment to the media, every webpage or blog comment, every speech, every campaign, indeed, everything we do as practitioners will be improved if it reflects a business strategy that has been informed by insight, not simply habit.
I am currently reviewing the portfolios of a number of students who undertook work experience in PR last year. What is already noticeable is the solely tactical nature of much of the activity undertaken in the organisations for which they worked (they do tend to be employed primarily in press offices).
Perhaps the majority of press releases are written and events planned because that’s what the departments always do. It reminds me of the adage of rearranging the deckchairs whilst the Titanic sunk – or the insult of “flower arrangers” that I still hear applied to those in PR. Are we too busy being pretty to be useful too?
There is little evidence of research or reflection in planning a lot of what PR practitioners do – let alone a commitment to evaluating its outcomes.
As Richard says at the start of his presentation:
the world has changed in a fundamental way, requiring reassessment of communications strategy and programming
Those who heard Richard and were prepared to listen and learn about the new opportunities for PR, undoubtedly face a good career ahead. Those who continue to focus on tactics without any real meaning will face the same fate as much of their work – it’s called the delete button.