Also published in Daily Memphian.
Public relations departments are like fire departments, although PR folks would much rather prevent your organizational fire than put it out.
PR is often underestimated until it is needed to manage a crisis – or ‘put out a fire.’ The best practice for any business is to include PR in high-level strategy settings. Think about it, an executive team would not dream of making major and game-changing company decisions without the CEO, COO, CFO and legal having a seat at the table.
If major decision making is not inclusive of the PR perspective, who is keeping a watchful eye over reputational risk and marketplace perceptions? Allow your PR professional to serve as the critical link between the company and the public.
At any given moment, a decision made in the boardroom can become headline news – good or bad. If it is bad, then chances are good that it could have been prevented or better managed if PR had been involved from the start.
Giving PR a seat at the table isn’t just about preventing crises either. Business owners rely on their public relations department to write effective communication plans for the company. How can a PR practitioner be expected to write a plan that will achieve the company’s objectives if he or she doesn’t even know what you talk about around that big table in the conference room?
Not having your PR person present during planning and decision-making undermines the true value of the trade. It leaves the PR person frustrated, as they find themselves in reactive versus proactive mode, and the CEO questioning the efficacy of the PR team.
What if you don’t have a PR department? Maybe your business is small or just starting out. Don’t be afraid to outsource this role. But keep in mind, when hiring outside help, they only know what you share about your business. It is your job to keep them adequately informed to enable them to guide you in making the best decisions for your company’s future.
If your company should ever face staff reductions, don’t be quick to let your PR person go. Many companies make this mistake. As a rule, PR should be the last one standing, especially in tough times, because strong internal and external communication is paramount to your company’s future survival during times of crisis.
Don’t limit the role PR plays to firefighting. Instead save a seat for them at the decision-making table.
Lori Turner-Wilson is the CEO/Founder at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy. She can be reached at redrovercompany.com.