ARE WE AS PUBLIC RELATIONS PROFESSIONALS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE ORGANISATION/CLIENT WE SERVE?
In their seminal work “Effective Public Relations”, Cutlip, Center and Bloom describe public relations as “a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication,understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organization and its publics.” In doing so, communications/PR is at the very heart of an organization. It is the soul of the organization, which allows it to take effective organizational decisions to move it dramatically forward towards meeting its corporate objectives.
And at the centre of this is relationship management – which is the role of public relations in identifying key publics and establishing strategies for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with these publics – internal (staff) and external (identified stakeholders).
But Public Relations (PR) is not a soul-less art or function. Whilst being a serious management function which should be respected for what it is (see above), it needs strong human intervention and years of experience to work. Relationships as described above are not build from principles alone but stem from human interaction. Interaction between the targeted publics (targeted is the key word here) and the organization is based on mutual understanding, respect and acceptance and co-operation between the publics and the organization, the latter in this case not only represented by the Public Relations Officer/Professional, but by a myriad of subject experts and role players collectively referred to as the ORGANISATION.
If the above be true, then surely, we as PR professionals cannot and should not always take the “shine”, the “glory” and the credit for our organisation’s message to our publics – especially through mass media. After all, we are not the marketing specialists, the finance director, the HR Manager or the Technical Manager who are the providers of the information, which we edit and polish, make it readable or palatable and then dispatch to the media. Why do we take credit for it…? Is it because we developed the strategy from which these pro-active media release stem..? Surely yes, we are the authors of the strategy but even so, is the most authoritative and credible voice of an organization not that of the CEO/MD..? Is the CEO/MD not the driver of the strategic direction of the organization (although it was collectively decided upon) and therefore should be credited as such and given his/her rightful place in the public representation of the organization…?
Effective communications / PR is a critical management function in an organization and is rooted in deep organizational dynamics, which we can describe as follows:
- It is about understanding the reasons for its need in an organization – why does an organization need a communications / PR strategy…? What would the objectives of such a strategy be….?
- It involves the development of a strategy based on research, perception survey results and a deep understanding of the organization and its dynamics.
- It involves the identification of relevant stakeholders and development of relevant messaging based on the stakeholders and it involves the development of the most appropriate actions/activities to be taken to reach the target publics
- It is about implementing that strategy in a manner which allows us to continuously monitor whether our activities meet the very objectives highlighted above
But most of all, it is about ensuring that there exists a mutually respectful understanding and ultimately co-operation between the organization and its publics – well, lets call it by name….the acceptance of an organisation’s narrative/message by its target publics!
And therefore it is too important a function to centre around our own in egos, self-indulgence and self-promotion.
My name is Usi //Hoebeb and I have been in this industry for over 25 years in various capacities – PRO and PR Manager for major organisations including Anglo-American’s Skorpion Zinc and TransNamib amongst others. I have developed numerous communications strategies for a wide range of clients (as a Communications Consultant) including the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL); Namibia Airports Company (NAC); Navachab Gold Mine to name a few. Furthermore, I have developed and am implementing Communications Strategies and serve as Communications Consultant for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) currently constructing the Container Terminal in Walvis Bay and Namibia’s latest entry into the diamond industry, Namib Desert Diamonds (NAMDIA).
You may have never heard of me, but you may have heard of my clients……..
Only because I believe my clients deserve the shine and the accolades more than me……
The message should and will always be about them (the clients; the organization I serve) and should and never will be diluted with my self-importance and personal agenda-setting.
And if this sounds a little self-indulgent…yes, maybe it is…Finally! And only this once…..