Why PR is a necessity for your organisation

Why PR? Every business, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.

Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact on your business. They all have an opinion about your organisation - whether good or bad, right or wrong - and these perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with you, shop with you and support you.

In today's competitive market, your reputation can be your biggest asset - the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. The links between reputation and the bottom line are well established and, time and again, business leaders identify damage to corporate reputation as one of the biggest risks they face. But a good reputation is fragile - it can take years to build up only to be destroyed in weeks, or even days.

It's this recognition of the power of reputation that is driving public relations up the corporate agenda - because PR is the strategic management function that looks after reputation through building and maintaining positive long-term relationships with all the stakeholders on whom a business depends.

And PR practitioners got official recognition of their professionalism and contribution to society and the UK economy when their professional body was awarded a Royal Charter, becoming the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

How to make PR work for you

So PR is a critical factor in business success but how you do find the right public relations advisor? Freelance practitioner, PR consultancy, or in-house practitioner? And what will be the return on your investment and when will you see it?

In our experience, when businesses run into PR teething troubles, it's often because of misunderstandings about the role of PR and what it's expected to achieve.

Probably the most significant thing you can do to ensure you get the best from your PR is to be very clear on why you want to use public relations in the first place.

So, brief your PR team on your needs and expectations, and together set clear and measurable public relations objectives that are aligned to your business goals - changing attitudes, raising awareness, altering behaviours, driving footfall or increasing sales. That way, you're both very clear about the results you want from your PR and it's easy to measure success.

Secondly, put PR at the centre of your business and at the heart of your strategic management and decision-making processes. As experts in reputation and relationships, public relations professionals are ideally placed to advise you on how different audiences feel about you and how they will react to your corporate decisions and strategy.

They can play a crucial role in identifying emerging issues and handling them before they become crises. And it's much more effective to take advice and deal with potential problems early than to wait until things go wrong before calling in your PR experts to sort it out. It's unfortunate, but true, that many businesses only really wake up to the true value of PR once a crisis is looming.

Thirdly, make sure you've got the right professional for the job - look at their qualifications, their experience in your sector or industry, their specialisms, skills and knowledge. Ask what continuous professional development they've done to keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Ask to see evidence of their achievements.

Finally, but importantly, make sure the ‘chemistry' is right - that you feel comfortable working with this person and you're happy to trust them with confidential business information. After all, you'll be working closely together and they'll be managing one of your most precious business assets, your reputation.

Author:.

Co-founder of training firm, Mission International Ltd, Justin is a sought after coach, teacher and trainer. Justin delivers interactive workshops globally for corporate and not-for-profit organizations. This includes team development, leadership and communications training for Europe's best business school, HEC Paris, Invesco and VMware.

He has collaborated on significant published research in the field of human systems. Justin counsels with senior executives at organizations including the ...

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