Proving our worth as communicators can be a real challenge, especially during tough economic times, but some astute professionals ensure they can prove the value of their work by using some thought.
Smart professionals meet with senior managers, especially line (divisional) managers to find out what are the major problems on their minds. Then they develop communication activities to directly help solve those problems. This process not only helps them develop a closer relationship with senior management, but helps them understand the business better. PR and communication staff are notorious for not going to the trouble to find out how a business ticks. Consequently, divisional people tend to regard communicators as just being a head office overhead who are not much help to them. Going to this effort will impress those senior managers.
Develop positive relationships with other departments. Organizations are well known for developing ‘silo’ mentalities, in which people from one department don’t get around to liaise with or understand what is happening in other departments. If you get out of your comfort zone and catch up with the managers of other departments, they will respect you more and you will find out a lot of useful information. For instance, speak with the HR manager about internal communication and events in the HR area, with the marketing manager about new product and brand initiatives, with production about what is happening there and so on.
When it comes to evaluating your results, don’t refer to outputs, refer to outcomes. Too many communicators take the easy way out and use media mentions, visitor traffic, social media responses etc. Those variables aren’t a measure of value; they just measure activity. Instead, you need to dig deeper and think through how your communication activities are achieving a business impact. Look at what employees are doing with the information you provide in articles. Have they used it to provide better customer service or better internal efficiency? You can tell by asking them or holding focus groups with some of them.
Julie O’Neil conducted a survey of 309 US corporate PR practitioners to determine what factors contribute most to the organizational influence of corporate public relations practitioners, and what types of upward influence tactics have the most impact on corporate public relations practitioners’ organizational influence. She found a strong relationship between perceptions of value and organizational influence, which implies that much of a public relations practitioner’s power is fluid and informal.
Four measures were found to contribute most to the organizational influence of corporate public relations practitioners:
Upward influence tactics are communication messages employed to persuade a more senior staff member in order to facilitate achievement of an organizational objective. The three most important upward influence tactics are:
Surprisingly, some findings in O’Neil’s research were contrary to the view of many people:
* Source: Julie O’Neil. (2003). An investigation of the sources of influence of corporate public relations practitioners. Public Relations Review, volume 29.
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