The death of public relations and managing reputation

I am writing this final post of Public relations and managing reputation to let my subscribers know I am closing this house down, largely influenced by the fact I am now working as a permanent employee, rather than running my own business.

PR is dead

What I will probably continue doing, however, is publishing posts on LinkedIn and in media outlets, while also speaking in professional forums. Having said that, my focus is on doing the best I possibly can in my job with Toll Global Express, while also spending time with my family and maybe, just maybe, finding some way to fit some ‘me’ time in the mix!

This PR, change comms and corporate affairs blog has been running for about six years, but it’s been a barely noticed child for a while now. For a long period, I was pumping out at least one post per week, and it’s funny how for most of that period it wasn’t much of a problem to think of something I thought was worth scrawling about.

For me, writing helped prompt me think about my profession more deeply than otherwise would have occurred. So I was paid back by the process, if you like.

Why blogs work

There is no hiding from the commercial side of the blog, as well. When I started my own business way back when (remember the GFC?), there was really no intelligent option other than having some sort of standalone web footprint.

Since then, many enterprises have made Facebook, or even Instagram, their online hub.

For a sole operator like myself, the blog was clearly the best option. It has allowed me to write about topics relevant to my profession. This accomplished three things – in theory, anyway:

  • It exhibited, through thought leadership, I knew what I was talking about and worth commissioning
  • It offered people value through analysis and thinking, for free, that may have prompted them to want to reciprocate in kind by giving me work
  • It generated content that helped the SEO of my blog, driving more traffic to it and ranking me higher in searches for relevant terms

Don’t worry, I make all of the above claims with a large grain of salt. How much did they really occur?

I don’t know, but at least when I was pitching work to clients there was online real estate there that backed up my claims for having appropriate experience and intellect to get the job done. I continue to find it amazing that people can open up a business but not have some sort of discrete, and sem-decent, web presence.

An important by-product of the process was that while I am by no means the most gun of digital communicators or SEO kings, it is true I do know a fair bit about digital and especially blogs/SEO as a result of operating the thing for so long.

Lack of thought leadership in PR

And while I am being sort-of modest in most claims in this final post, there are very few half-decent PR/professional comms blogs in the world, let alone my home country of Australia, so because of that paucity mine has definitely been one of the best! This is important because there are not that many voices speaking publicly on PR.

Which leads me to a swipe I’ll take at academics, including those who I have a massive amount of respect for in Australia. Jim Macnamara is one of this country’s most notable PR academics but also makes a big effort to reach out beyond the confines of academia with useful, readable texts which you don’t have to force yourself to read. Take his relatively recent piece on Listening, for instance, which I heartily recommend.

Why aren’t there more academics following Jim’s lead? Really, there is a lot of room for improvement here.

Industry associations? Yeah, well, they are great for the less experienced professional, which is absolutely necessary. But there isn’t much of great professional development value fostered by the PRIA or the IABC in Australia in this regard.

New steps in digital footprints

One reason why I can ditch the blog these days is because of the blogging platform that has emerged on LinkedIn. If I started my own business today rather than six years ago, I would still probably start my own blog. You still need, I think, as an ‘enterprise’, to have your own unique URL/appropriately branded online presence (yes, maybe I should have branded my URL differently to in hindsight to something more PR/comms-specific, but we all learn from our errors….).

But as an employee or contractor, due to the overwhelming dominance and credibility of LinkedIn, I think it presents a strong case for being a better blogging platform than WordPress and its ilk.

You can still do the thought leadership thing, it’s definitely where recruiters will go a hunting more than anywhere else and I guess it probably isn’t too bad from an SEO point of view as well, though I can’t say that for certain.

While there have been many kind people who have encouraged me in my blog musings over the years, and have actively commented or shared the posts (all of which I appreciated), I want to thank the man who started it all, Peter Hindmarsh, in particular.

Peter convinced me to kick off the blog, being of the questionable view I had something useful to say. I’m not sure he was correct (and look at the suffering he’s had me inflict on people!), but he opened up a world of enjoyment and possibility for me and allowed me, and this is so very, very important, to make connections of substance with a large number of people across the globe.

Very cool. Just like P Hindmarsh was, and remains, a very cool guy himself.

I might start the blogging (ad)venture off again at some stage in the future but, for now, I am following my own advice from a personal branding point of view…the best thing I can do for my career – forget content curation, forget the tweeting, forget wallowing in the narcissistic mire of Facebook – is do the best I possibly can at my job.

Good night.

For old times sake, why not share this through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et through one of the handy buttons, if they feel like working, on this page. Cheers.

By |March 2nd, 2016|Strategic communication|3 Comments

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management – free professional resource

I invite you to download the free resource, A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management, from this blog, then share news of the resource via the social media icons on this page and endorse me for change communications on my LinkedIn profile.  The guide can be downloaded once you have subscribed to this blog.

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management is a free resource packed with user-friendly and functional insights and advice on how communication contributes to effective change management. The guide features intel from seven experienced communication and change professionals, and will benefit all levels of practitioner.

It is of use to change, change communication and internal communication professionals, while senior leaders who have change/transformation in their job remit will also find it of use.

Communication reigns in change management

Research consistently informs us the quality, nature and consistency of communication plays a leading role – if not the leading role – in change becoming embedded within organisations. This underlines the importance of exploring what constitutes effective communication in the context of change management, enabling us to better understand the role it plays and harness its power.

It manifests itself in many different ways. Like change management, the process, and the change ‘product’ it delivers, communication is, and must be, a malleable and adaptive entity.

If you find the resource of worth, I’d appreciate you endorsing me on my LinkedIn profile for change communications (just scroll down my profile page until you see change communications under Skills and click on the + icon next to it).

Leadership, culture and communication

Communication is embedded in – and/or influences – all the different phases of change. It carries particular resonance for organisational leadership – in any of its executive sponsorship, line management and informal influencer manifestations – as it is here where the greatest possibilities for change communication impact occur.

Leadership, communication and culture are the triumvirate bedrock for change – be it good or bad, effective or ineffective. They are enablers or they are blockers. Each are addressed in this guide.

Share news of the guide through the LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook icons on the guide’s landing page – or even through face-to-face and email conversations!

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management synthesises thinking from a range of sources – practical experience from change and change communication professionals, academic discussions and management consulting resources. It is not a set of academic papers; it is intended to be of practical use – yet I am sure its content will pique the interest of academics.

Sources of intelligence for change communication guide

“For the C-suite, transformational change is indistinguishable from business strategy,” writes Jonathan Champ in this guide, a point which, I think, underlines just how significant the field of change management is to contemporary business. It pulses through the veins of every part of the organisational body – brain, organs, limbs, torso and…soul.

You’ll find many of the pieces, especially those written by myself, look at change primarily through the lens of Prosci’s ADKAR change management model.

There are other models of change – such as the influential and much cited one of Kotter’s, the Four Rooms methodology and Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model – that contributors such as Angela Scaffidi, Rachael Bibby, Jonathan Champ and Scott Guthrie discuss and put in a communication context. Though they take different paths to achieve the same end-goal, each model enriches the thinking behind change and adds rigour to the process.

More important than the model of change applied is that such is the prodigiousness and prevalence of change in contemporary business, as cogently argued by Scott Guthrie in this guide, that organisations have no choice but to make change management a built-in and embedded capability, rather than one which is procured on an ad hoc bolt-on basis. Acceptance of this view, especially when applied in a transformational sense, means there will be more demands on, and for, change communicators.

A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management is an attempt to focus greater attention on the subtleties of change management communication, providing value to the increasing number of professionals involved in the field. It is also intended to foment further discussion and enrich the professional knowledge and capability of all those involved in change management communication.

I hope you enjoy the guide and find its content enriching.

If you find the resource of worth, I’d appreciate you endorsing me on my LinkedIn profile for change communications (just scroll down my profile page until you see change communications under Skills and click on the + icon next to it).

By |September 10th, 2015|Internal communication, Strategic communication|0 Comments

Five reasons why public relations is not dead

The idea that public relations is dead is fundamentally absurd, but it makes for a catchy headline. And some circling vultures might find the scent of death compelling enough to swoop down for a closer look. There’s a slew of reasons one can slalom through to explode the PR is dead myth but, at its very heart, the ideal form of two-way symmetrical communication  ensures the assertion is a fallacy.

PR is not dead_2A discussion booted off at PR Redefined gathered the insights of some pretty cluey comms professionals – as well as those of my own – on the topic and a discussion at the PRIA LinkedIn group also contained some interesting dialogue generated by the issue. Following are the notions I put forward.

Two-way symmetrical communication at the heart of public relations

PR cannot be dead if you subscribe to the theory of two-way symmetrical communication.

The chief and defining point of difference for the ideal form of two-way symmetrical is that, based on feedback from target audiences, an organisation will modify its initially proposed business activity so it is more in line with the needs and wants of its target audiences. So it is not, literally speaking, purely a communication activity, but its application does impact profoundly on the quality of organisation-stakeholder relationships.

The other two key elements of the ideal form of two-way symmetrical are market research (being used as a means to listen and learn, not just to help persuade) and two-way communication (listening, again, to stakeholders to gain an enhanced understanding of their views).

Two-way symmetrical frequently occurs, even if it sometimes takes a crisis to motivate the organisation to adopt this approach!

If a practitioner is sceptical of the efficacy or practical application of two-way symmetrical, it provides an admirable aspirational objective to incorporate the approach into business as usual comms (along with achieving ever present business/ commercial/ organisational outcomes, of course…).

Risk management and rigour from PR

Whether you subscribe to, and apply, two-way symmetrical or not, it is a fundamental responsibility of PR to assist organisations understand the views of stakeholders. This generates information which will inevitably enrich organisational decision making, as well as the outcomes of this decision making.

Even if this stakeholder scoping leads to no change to the proposed decision/business activity, it will have provided valuable rigour, risk management and quality to the decision.

Building relationships that last the distance

Inherent to stakeholder scoping, or sometimes additional to it, PR applies its traits of empathy, negotiation and alliance building, making the effort to understand, and then actually comprehend, the needs, wants, motivations and perceptions of stakeholders.

PR can never be dead because these traits – necessary for an organisation to operate at optimum levels – are more fundamental to PR than any other business discipline. Including marketing.

Marketing exists to make money for an organisation. PR can exist to help achieve this but, more importantly, its focus is on creating an environment where relationships prosper, helping organisations in a holistic sense more than other business disciplines. If this does not occur, organisations will be mired in firefighting mode and expend energy more on damage limitation than reputation enhancement.

The moral compass at the heart of storytelling and positioning

PR is the storytelling function of an organisation. In an age of content marketing, brand journalism and a decline in the amount and quality of the media, this role is more relevant and powerful than ever.

With the decline of the fourth estate, however, comes great responsibility. Without aspiring to achieve he actuality and sub-text of two way symmetrical, the organisation will lack a moral compass to assist in the navigation of its communication, culture and positioning.

The moral compass (perhaps it’s just a common sense compass?) necessitates corporate brand journalism not being characterised by spin or tedious, self-serving platitudes. As PR is a boundary-spanning (between organisations and their stakeholders) enabler, it has the capability to use characteristics previously outlined (e.g. empathy, understanding stakeholder needs and wants) to produce creative and authentic content which engages, and doesn’t repel, stakeholders.

Internal relationships in a world of change

Souls more attuned to the zeitgeist of our times than myself have commented that change management within government and commercial sectors is occurring more frequently than ever. This means internal public relations – change comms – is increasingly in demand.

And while often there is not much the PR pro can do about what constitutes the ‘change product’ – so much for two-way symmetrical communication here! – relationship building and issues management help organisations limit reputational damage and maybe, just maybe, contribute to creating an environment where the change is welcomed and adopted, not just tolerated or abjured.

What reasons can you give for PR not being dead? Or do you have reasons to support the opposite argument? Can you provide examples to provide context for any of the above five points?

If you found this post of value, please share it through LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other death-inducing mode of social media poison….#irony.