If I were hiring a “universal PR professional” to guide strategic communications in 2013 and beyond, here are some of my best practice tips to shape that PR person’s role:
Be proactive and don’t wait to be asked.
Today, we are looking for people who will raise their hands to get involved. One place to get involved might be the development of a social media policy, training initiatives, and governance—new responsibilities that require PR to participate. You should never wait for someone to give you the assignment, especially if you identify an area in your department or company that needs support. Propose new ideas, do the research, and offer your assistance. The initiative you take will make you stand out among all the rest.
Start with good communication on the inside.
Take the time to discover how to be more efficient and productive with your teams. Make suggestions beyond simply using email communication on how to finish your projects on time and under budget. Use social collaboration tools inside your company for better internal communications and then take the time to educate your peers on new ways to work together to increase overall productivity.
Test technology … always.
Don’t fall behind the curve—stay ahead of it. Be ready to answer those leadership questions about “why” and “how” your brand should participate in new social communities. Take the time to “tech test” in different areas including collaborative platforms, applications, monitoring software, influence tools, etc., which will make you a more valuable asset to your organization.
Listen to be heard and to be relevant.
Gathering customer intelligence is the best way to internalize information and then use it to communicate with meaning, through offline and new media channels. Since starting in PR, I was always told to listen first to solve problems. This is much more apparent today, as a result of social media. By truly “listening,” we can both help people and build stronger relationships with our constituents.
You are always on.
Social media doesn’t sleep, so your organization’s readiness is key. Creating the social media crisis plan (integrated into an overall crisis plan) requires knowledge and skills. It’s imperative for you to build a system that catches negative sentiment early before it escalates, and to put processes and people in place for different levels of escalation through new media channels.
Build relationships by giving.
And realize you sometimes have to give more. Before the Internet and social media, PR professionals were known for building relationships. Today, the ability to cultivate a relationship with new influencers and customers in which they congregate is both an art and science. Knowing how to strategically grow mutually beneficial relationships, whether they start online on Facebook or offline, is an essential part of the PR person’s role.
Live the brand to protect the brand.
PR professionals who are more involved in the development of the brand experience, and who understand how the brand voice translates into the social media brand voice (with personality and transparency), are in a position to educate others. With this understanding you can help to build an army of champions, who can better protect and maintain the brand’s reputation at every touch point.
Be accountable with all of your communications, including social media.
It’s important for you to understand the different metrics, whether they reveal community growth, reputation issues, increased awareness, or engagement with high-level impact. We also have to use social media analytics, paired with other data, to show return on investment (ROI), knowing that our communications cannot work in a vacuum and must be integrated with marketing and other areas of the organization. Of course, we also have to ask, “Why?” and then make sure the outcomes we are trying to achieve track back to our program objectives, which we measure over time.
What helpful tips would you add to shape the role of the Universal PR professional of tomorrow? And when you describe your own role, what do you think are the most important skills?
Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is the author of five business books, her most recent is Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional. This story first appeared on her blog PR 2.0 Strategies.