A Tale of two PR Practitioners
One takes delight in engaging in publicity stunt and defines it as what makes a PR expert.
The other takes his time to garner and build relationship with critical stakeholders in his industry of practice. He takes time to understand the issues, challenges of his industry and identify influencers that can wade in at critical moments of need to resolve them. Through tthird-party advocacy, he provides contents and perspectives to credible advocates to influence and shape opinion in favour of his industry.
All these he does with a view to contributing to the improvement of his industry’s operating environment. He understands that if the environment is safe for the business to operate, the organization will do better in achieving its objectives. If the organization achieves its objectives the prosperity of its ecosystem will be more inclusive.
In the tale of these two practitioners, one thing is common, they are both shaping perception. However, while one is shaping perception perhaps for his self-aggrandizement by seizing premium spot in photo-opts, the other is at the background influencing and shaping perception for the improvement of his industry’s survival and prosperity.
The interesting thing in this clime is, the former is adjudged a better PR Manager, because over time, he has become the face of the organization through constant media appearance. The other is unknown and his works are even untraceable to him. The latter is the case since his works are strategic in content and delivering of messaging to targeted critical stakeholders – policy makers, regulators, government, private sector, NGOs, international organizations and more
Ironically, in my early days in the business of communication, I thought about the publicity driven PR guy as the real PR guru and I aspired to be like him. Slowly, steadily, as time evolved, I realized that the job of a PR guy is deeper than appearing in the media as the face or spokesperson of an organization. The job of a PR guy is to make the message get to target audience while he stays at the background controlling; how the message goes out, when it goes out, why it should go out, where it is going to, and who consumes the message…. While his messages get to the target audience through press releases, feature articles, courtesy visit, strategic stakeholders management, advocacy visit or content deployment and more, all in a bid to shape and influence perception, he is not seen but his impact is felt.
Permit me to digress to drive home a point. We live in an environment that is near ignorant of what its responsibilities are, especially from a leadership and policy makers’ point of view. While you expect that policy makers should understand what the issues are and work to create solutions, you are faced with the shocking reality of how these people don’t know what the real issues are. At best, they regulate from populist perspectives and take decisions that threaten the existence of organisations and most times the entire industry, using threats and sanctions.
The burden of educating both the public and policy makers in this scenario, on what the real issues are, and perhaps how to regulate an industry falls on the PR practitioner through strategic advocacy drive. This therefore means that the PR guy has to be a well-informed person on global best practice about his industry. He has to keep in touch with new trends and what the future is. Subtly, he has the prerogative to influence the management of his organization to embrace the future if it must survive. His job is clearly cut out for him and if he knows what he is doing, he will have little or no time to concern himself with appearing or not appearing in the media space through photo news or other jaded ways we do PR around here.
Guess what guys? That should be left for the marketing team. They own the product or services being launched. Let them take the shine as the managers and process owners. You, the PR guy, your substance and the value you bring on board is to create the platforms for them and the products to shine and reach the target audience
Our currency as PR practitioners is not how many times we grant interviews in the media or appear in photo news. Our currency is that of influence that drives and dictates how we shape perception positively, in favour of the industry and organizations we play in, through the strategic content deployment without necessarily being seen. But, our message is potent enough to be heard in subtle manner by the relevant stakeholders, we are out to influence and shape their perception and understanding of issues.
May I appeal to you, not to misinterpret my point that a PR guru should not appear in the media. Yes, he can and he should. But, his job and value should not be reduced to how many times he appears in the media. This denigrates the value of what PR is about. PR is deep and those who venture into it must do so with an understanding of adding value as opposed to being everywhere in the media.