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Six things you must know about the future of PR

PR is possibly one of the most dynamic and misunderstood professions. After doing this this for more than 20 years, I have realised that the profession has been completely revolutionised. The ones who thrive are the ones who evolve and are agile enough to keep up with a profession that has become always-on and a lot more critical to strategic business action.

There are six important points which Public Relations professionals and practitioners need to consider about the business and the industry if they are going to be successful and effective.

1)Communications is wow a Critical Business Discipline
This is not a profession for the faint-hearted. It is now a Critical Business Discipline. A lot of the dialogue in the past has been about getting PR a seat at the boardroom table. Given what we have seen in the last year, globally and in South Africa, I’m willing to bet that the first conversation or e-mail exchange of the day that most CEO’s are having is with their head of communications.

If you or your head of communications is not having this conversation, you need to ask yourself why?

2)We don’t write the story
We’ve seen protest marches of 50 000 people delivering memos of demands to financial services institutions. White minority capital, radical economic transformation, sovereign and bank downgrades have become a very strong narrative in boardrooms, when we should be talking about how to innovate in our businesses, serve our customers and make our industries more inclusive.

3)We will need new skills
PR professionals have spent so much time becoming business subject matter experts that we have forgotten that our unique selling proposition is to be communication experts and to help our organisations gather their audience around our campfires and tell our stories.

Digital storytelling should be in every communicators toolkit. If we’re honest, there are still too many communications ‘professionals’ who are not top of their game when it comes to the basics of writing, design and content creation. There are way too many communicators out there who don’t know their way around a social media platform.

On our watch, we let marketing departments take up this role when the very thing that makes us powerful is our ability to tell stories, write and design beautiful communication.

4)There is always a story in the data
Most communicators understand their audiences intimately, and advances in Data Analytics make this so much easier. Learning to interrogate data is going to be an important trend. There is ALWAYS a story in the data. Let your content be data driven.

Our organisations desperately need us to bring these skills.

5)You have one job – Managing Reputation
The management of reputation risk is one of the biggest shifts we are seeing. Who amongst us is equipped and skilled to deal with the kind of PR deployed by the likes of firms like Bell Pottinger. Make no mistake, they are out there and our companies and clients are on their agenda.

Related to this, is that today – more than ever, our ethics and morality as a profession are going to be under scrutiny. Do we deploy the same tactics or do we go high when others go low?

6)Fake News is Big News
Fake news, or ‘spin-doctoring’ as it has been called in the past, can be laid at our door as well. Think of the PR campaigns in the not-too-distant past, like cigarette campaigns which suggested that smoking was good for weight loss or that sugar-laden products were good for energy.

This beautiful profession of ours has an enormous responsibility and opportunity to be a force for good. The powerful tools we deploy have the ability to do world-changing, shape-shifting work.

Article by Esme Arendse
Esme Arendse is the founder of One Reputation, a niche communications and reputation management consultancy. She has more than 20 years experience in corporate communications, the management of reputation risk and stakeholder engagement in large, multi-national organisations. Over the last few years, Esme has specialised in the advising executive teams on reputation risk and led expert teams on major reputation issues. Her particular interest in mentoring communication professionals over many years has been both personally fulfilling and effective.

Esme derives from producing communications that breaks the mould and connects.

e- mail: |twitter: @EsmeArendse |

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