At a recent monthly meeting of the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the topic of discussion was the lack of credibility within the field and practice of public relations, and the ways in which we as practitioners can combat this unfortunate (and inaccurate) set of beliefs.
Spin doctors, professional bull—–ers, etc. the list of misconceptions is a mile long. Let’s face it, we’re not exactly seen as beacons of truth nowadays. On the other end of the spectrum are the folks that have absolutely no idea what it is that we do, let alone any notion of the value of our work.
So what can we do about it? I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to be taken seriously as a PR professional is to move beyond mere execution into the realm of strategy.
Just about anybody can mindlessly crank out a news release or can send an empty pitch to a journalist. It’s when you’re able to offer strategic input on why you’re sending out that news release or making that pitch that you become invaluable and earn a seat at the ever illusive “table.”
So how does one become a PR strategist? Here are a few ideas to get us started, or at least get us thinking:
- Work. Hard. Experience is, in my opinion, one of the greatest strategic teachers there is. Whether it be through concerted effort or a form of osmosis, being in the field every day has a way of helping us to see the big picture, and how we fit into it. Working is also a prime source for learning from mistakes, our own or those of others, and mistakes are always good stepping stones to understanding the strategy behind decisions and actions.
- Take time to breathe. I have a Post-it® on my computer that reads “Slow Down…” I literally have to remind myself to take things more slowly; left to my own devices, I want things done and want them done now. But it’s when we move too quickly that we make mistakes, and we miss out on the meaning behind what we’re working on. Before we jump into the steps or the tasks required to complete this or that project, we should take a minute to breathe and to contemplate why what you’re doing is important. And if you don’t know why, then…
- Ask why. When asked to work on a project, don’t be afraid to ask why the project is important to your company or organization. People (i.e. leaders of your company or organization, co-workers, etc.) generally appreciate inquisitiveness and curiosity, especially related to how your work affects the bottom line.
- Expand your vision. Another good place to look when seeking strategic guidance is the PR industry as a whole. What’s going on? What’s relevant right now? What’s trending? What trends are being projected? Knowing where the industry is moving can help guide the strategy for your business, organization, or for yourself as a professional.
Is this an inclusive list? Absolutely not. And I welcome your feedback and input on the subject. I hope if nothing else that we can begin seeing ourselves not as mere cogs that focus solely on the task(s) before us, but as strategists that make a real impact on the bottom line.
Maybe if we start to see ourselves in this light, others might just follow suit.
Ginny Wiedower is a Public Relations and Communications professional working in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ginny has worked in communications in the areas of health care, banking and finance, in an agency setting, and for a non-profit. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in 2006 (Go Bears!) and is currently in the process of working towards achieving her Accreditation in Public Relations. She is an active member of the Arkansas Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is an Ambassador for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and was named to Arkansas Business’ list of “20 In Their 20’s: The New Influentials.”
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