To-do lists are usually divided into two categories: tasks that can be completed immediately and goals that will take longer to accomplish.
The public relations industry’s to-do list is no different, and the long-term goals should be focused on improving the industry’s reputation. It’s a contradiction: We manage the reputation of our companies and clients but have difficulty managing our own.
Here’s a list of goals for the PR industry to put on its to-do list to advance the profession:
- Define public relations. There has yet to be a comprehensive definition created for the industry that everyone can agree on, because PR involves many different functions. The Public Relations Society of America has one that is commonly referred to, but in my opinion, it doesn’t fully define what the profession can do. In order for people to understand what we do, we first must define it properly.
- Go beyond communication and really understand companies/clients. PR professionals should understand the financials (yes, we have to be “numbers” people), operations, and inner workings of our companies or clients. Not only will this help develop better PR plans and media pitches, but it will also help eliminate frivolous efforts. If you know your company inside and out, you know the best way to do PR for it. Many professionals have already accomplished this, but if you haven’t, add it to your list.
- Get public relations a seat at the table. As PR professionals, we must be part of ongoing business conversations, ensuring that company decisions are ethical. The value we bring is predicting stakeholder and media reactions. If that’s not a good enough argument, it’s also a way of preventing a crisis.
- Keep ethics at our core. We’re no longer “spin masters,” but our industry’s reputation isn’t golden. If we’re not doing things ethically, our reputation and our company’s reputation will suffer. Ethical companies and professionals stay in business for the long run.
- Work on our writing. We have to continue improving our writing and editing skills, but we also must master new(er) skills, such as writing for shared and owned media. If every company is now a media company, the PR pro is the storyteller.
- Understand journalists and their profession better. The biggest mistake we make in media relations is that we pitch the wrong journalists. We all know this, so we have to work on our pitching skills, but we also must understand how their industry has changed and how we can adapt to the new state of journalism.
- Plan based on objectives, think strategically, and act tactically. The best public relations campaigns combine creativity with strategy to meet a business objective. We have to keep the end goal in mind when we plan for our clients and companies. This should become a standard objective, not a lofty goal.
- Help companies use social media properly. Most executives still don’t understand social media, why they should be on it, or the value of engagement. Because social media is in our territory, it’s now our job to educate them in their language: data and numbers.
- Prove our tangible worth. Most companies know there’s a benefit in doing PR, and they can feel the results, but we, as PR pros, must develop a better way to identify and demonstrate the tangible benefits of what we do (or translate intangibles to tangibles).
- Do more research. With the rise of big data and social media analytics, we must understand how to use these tools to further our roles and the industry as a whole. Researching and mining data can provide valuable insights to formulate new, more successful campaigns.
Julia Sahin is a PR and corporate communications graduate student at NYU and a PR consultant.