How PR’s workflow is changing

PR deserves a spot at the table alongside advertising and marketing, but it’ll take some work to get there.

Public relations is firmly on the move.

There’s no more discussion of social media as a fad, and the only thing that separates us from other disciplines is our willlingess (or lack thereof) to embrace modernity.

The writing is firmly on the wall. And it’s more than likely a Facebook or Twitter wall, so what obstacles remain that are slowing down our collective progress?

Fresh from the launch of #PRstack, I want to tackle three areas which, if addressed, may accelerate our industry’s move to new workflows. Having campaigned this issue hard as President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 2014, I believe we’re heading in the right direction, but there is still work to be done.

Distribution

The marketing world is spoiled for choice when it comes to the array of tools, products and services that might be relevant today.

However, rather than empowering many public relations practitioners, this variety often threatens to overwhelm professionals who already feel their time is dominated by current responsibilities and obligations.

As a result, the maxim that “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” rings true for many. In many ways, this is what led to the creation of #PRstack, as a project to crowdsource all tools available out there.

The next step is to collect endorsement and recommendations from real users, so that anyone in public relations can get a grasp on which tool will genuinely improve their workflow and address their next challenge.

Education and professionalization

Traditionally, the PR industry has been welcoming to all comers and has expected very little in terms of their professional commitment to standards.

This is another area that has had great impact on the use of tools and software. In contrast to industries like accounting, few tools and products have become standardised and therefore this element is scarce in all training — both pre- and post-graduation.

In all training, technology must play a bigger role so we can break free of a luddite cycle and enable the generation springing into the industry beneath us. Those who take this seriously will reap the rewards of an informed, enabled workforce. This possibility is within reach for all.

Belief & entitlement

Public relations has often acted with a caution and reticence compared to its siblings in advertising and marketing.

This is changing, but more can be done. Collectively, we need to say PR is entitled to sit at the table and discuss strategy on parity with other departments. In doing so, our arguments to include technology and augment our traditional strengths should be supported with bigger budgets, stronger buy-in from management and, ultimately, the opportunity for greater impact. Once more, this is within reach for us all. It just takes a shifting mindset, that benefits everyone in the bigger picture.

Starting small

Public relations has not always been strongest at sharing. We must recognize that those actions that benefit the least well-equipped in the market will ultimately benefit us all.

Competing on closed, proprietary technology and ways of working makes little sense.

By raising the standard among us all, we free the battle to focus on what counts: great ideas, grounded in meaningful strategy that deliver results for clients.

The only way we get there is together.

Stephen Waddington is chief engagement officer for Ketchum and past president of CIPR.

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