PR in the boardroom
MODULE 3, CORPORATE COMMUNICATION
Finally we move away from theory to looking at PR!s rightful (said with a dose of scepticism) place ... as a management function, or in the boardroom. We also look at how communication is
used as a management tool.
It!s long been one of PR!s two quot;Holy Grails! (the other being effective evaluation) that PR take its place alongside other business disciplines, such as accounting, legal and marketing.
Unfortunately, this has been PR!s big problem (not considered a serious business discipline). To a large extent, it still is a problem, though is changing, but ever so slowly.
It!s important to make the point that this unit is not about PR making the critical boardroom decisions on takeovers, mergers or aquisitions. It!s about the role PR plays in providing
information which is essential in making those decisions. It!s about the contribution PR can make to the overall corporate objectives.
Entering into magagement
Gain support, understanding
Be more than a technician
Think like a manager, but retain
There are six steps which should be followed when ensuring you can be taken seriously as a PR practitioner.
•!It’s diquot;cult for a new practitioner, no matter where they work. They must get to know the business, the sta# and, most
importantly, management. It can be a long process. Support has to be earned.
Prove your value (show results)
“PR in an organisation is
what management says it is”
This, in many respects, relates to being issues-orientated.
While it!s all very well to say that PR “must lead”, it!s easier said than done. There is still a perception in some organisations that PR is not a valuable tool. It is still seen as media relations
and quot;party quot;planning!.
•#The best advice is for practitioners to always be alert and aware of problems before they arise, and to have a plan at hand to deal with them. Even if your organisation doesn!t have one, a
crisis management plan is essential. It!s often the case that the easiest way to measure PR!s value is when a company does nothing. But by then it is often too late, and the PR person could
well be out the door.
•#The key is to think strategically. Think: the big picture, think of corporate goals and how PR may assist in reaching them.
•#At the end of the day you should be thinking about how PR is adding value, so a little PR for PR may come in handy, because “PR in an organisation is what management says it
is” (Thompson). If you!ve not shown your worth, then PR, like most functions which provide counsel (HR, legal, training) usually are ﬁrst to be axed in time of ﬁnancial constraint.
Change your attitude
“Tell me what to say and
I’ll tell you how to say it”
Think as a strategist first,
Results, not content
Anticipate, don’t react
•#This type of attitude simply encourages management to think of PR as a tool to implement policy, rather than help create it.
•#Practitioners must not think of themselves merely as someone to sell messages (a technician=writer, publisher, designer). Okay, you!ll have to do a lot of that work initially, but always keep
your thoughts on how you might do things differently.
•#PR managers will focus on the results and not on the content and look, though they do feature. A good analogy is the difference between the architect and the brickie.
•#The technician will react to decisions after they are made. The manager will be part of the decision.
•#And don!t stick with traditional tools, such as memos, emails. (Use example of safety glasses - see Baskin notes)
Strategic v Tactical
Practical and specific issues
Trends, issues, policies
Consider the complementary roles of two categories of communications managers: tactical and strategic.
• Tactical managers make day-to-day decisions on many practical and specific issues. Should they send a news release or hold a news conference? Are they better off with a brochure or a Web page?
Should they develop a mall exhibit, or would it be more effective to create a computer presentation? Do they need another advertisement, and if so, for which publication or station, and with what
message using which strategy?
•!Strategic managers, on the other hand, are concerned with management, trends, issues, policies and corporate structure. What problems are likely to face the organization over the next several years,
and how might they be addressed? What is the crisis readiness of the organization? Should senior personnel be offered an advanced level of media training? What should be the policies for the Web
It’s all about strategy
It is this strategic perspective that will differentiate the effective practitioner from the one who simply performs tasks and provides basic services.
Strategic communication often is either informational or persuasive.
Some examples are: public health and social marketing campaigns, diplomacy and international relations, constituent relations, political campaigns, and religious affairs, community relations, special
events planning and promotion, political campaigns, nonprofit events, and fund-raising and development, public affairs, issues management, crisis communication, public information, consumer and customer relations,
lobbying, investor relations, reputation management
Seeing things differently
Read outside ‘core’
Example: A PR writer/editor at a factory was told to communicate a change in safety policy to plant employees. Everyone in the plant
would have to wear safety glasses at all times and in all locations. Instead of simply writing a memo to announce the change, the editor started asking questions. Why everyone? Why
everywhere? How was the policy decided? What prompted the change? What was management's objective? The answers he received demonstrated clearly that management had not really
thought the policy through –#that the main consideration was ease in administering
Management then decided to rethink the policy and invited the editor to help out. The newly-formulated policy required safety glasses in areas of the plant where speciﬁc hazards justiﬁed the
requirement. Instead of a memo, a six-week, multimedia program introduced the change. The policy was implemented smoothly, and Weiser gained the respect of management and was
allowed to take part in future decisions. (Not sure of that's a great example).
•• To be valuable to management in decision-making, the public relations practitioner they must have the appropriate knowledge, background, interests, and perspectives. No matter what
their training or background, must learn everything they can about business and government in general, the speciﬁc industry (or areas) in which their corporation (or agency) operates; and
the organization itself. To be successful, public relations practitioners should know the functions, viewpoints, and problems of all parts of the organisation. They should know economic, and
political pressures. And, if that!s not enough, have knowledge of the various techniques and tools available to impart messages: remembering that one-size-ﬁts-all doesn!t cut it these days.
It!s also important for PR managers to learn about disciplines and subject they might not have studied, such as ﬁnance, IT, marketing, and know how activities in an organisation can impact
on these areas. For example, apart from the effects on staff (morale) what happens in ﬁnancial markets in the event of a merger? OR what about deciding where to put a paper mill? the PR
person must be versed in environmental, demographic and ﬁnancial concerns – things such as population displacement, pollution. So basing the mill on purely economic considerations
could have ramiﬁcations further down the track (for example, when it comes to be built and people start protesting). If those considerations (engaging the community) had been made in the
planning process there wouldn!t be any problems.
The bottom line is that to contribute to the bottom line, you must be results-orientated. And you will only achieve results if you can set achievable and measurable goals at the start of any
project. If PR staff can!t convince managers that their services aren!t valuable they will fail to attract resources to keep operating.
PR as a management tool
Managers face problems. Their success usually depends on their subordinates achievements, which in turn depends on them being able to translate information into quot;doingquot;. And what's at
the heart of that process? Communication.
No matter what techniques a manager uses, it will all come down to the quality of communication. So if there's a communication breakdown, the management attempt will fail. At it's most
basic, if a manager forgets to ask someone to do something it won't get done. At the other extreme, if the manager fails to outline why a ceratin course of action is being taken, the quality of
the work may not be as good as it could be. Communication comes in increments, or levels of quality.
Communication lies at the core of any organisation. Or it should be.
Where PR fits
CFO Mkt Mgr HR Mgr Legal
Accounts Adv. PR ?
‘In the end, PR in an organisation is
what top management says it is’
- Thompson, as cited in Aronoff (1997)
If PR is to be an essential part of an organisation, just where does it sit? And what is an organisation anyway?
The most common form of organisation is called a line organisation. Most commonly it can be thought of as a sequence of
ascending levels of responsibility, connected by vertical links.
•!•!But what of PR? Where does it ﬁt? What is it’s role?
Influencing factors on PR
Growth and size
Complexitity & technology
Organisations are a#ected by a variety of factors which are causing an ever-increasing demand/emphasis on communication and its practitioners. Adaptation is the key
word. You will have to be able to adapt to changing situations. You will have to adapt to changing technology. You’ll have to be adept at adapting.
•!Growth and size –!Larger organisations which spread, in many cases, internationally, place additional (and new) challenges on communicators. The growth of
international commerce has, for example, given rise to the need for communicators to be aware of cross-cultural implicatations. This is reﬂected in the ECU PR course,
which last year o#ered International PR as a unit for the ﬁrst time. Growth of management also means that a greater hierarchy is created, and that means that transmitting
messages downwards become increasingly diquot;cult.
•!Complexity & technology –!There has been a rapid switch in communication methods in the past 10 years. Gone are the traditional methods of print-based material such
as newsletters, brochures and magazines. The norms now are email, pdfs, blogs and webcasts. There is a need to be innovative, but at what cost to the message. Do
modern methods facilitate e#ective communication? Our society reduces everyone to a number, yet individualism ﬂourishes.
•!Competition - It goes without saying that competition is the driving force of business, and therefore of PR. It follows that the ﬁrm that’s can’t get its message across
e#ectively and quickly won’t be competitive. This is an area where the PR practitioner must know the opposition in order to stay one step ahead. This is simply research.
But what is communication?
1. Transmisison of
• information, ideas, emotions, skills ... using
• symbols, words, pictures, figures, graphs
3. Transfer of meaning
Before looking at the ways communication can be used as a managemnet tool, let’s just revist what communication is.
But which deﬁnition is best?
Perhaps the third deﬁnition is the most useful, particularly when we consider it in the context of the manager, and also relating it to rhetoric. A manager can transmit the
ideas and share informations, but if the meaning isn’t clear, then all the information in the world isn’t going to be of much use if the worker can’t understand it.
No understanding X
At the end of the day there are only three outcomes from any communication attempt:
So, each time you communicate you only have one chance at getting it right. Yes, there may be opportunities to correct poor communication, but don’t count on it. As with
many things in PR, ﬁrst impressions (and messages) count.
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Planning a PR campaign is something you should have covered in your second year in Foundations. (Anyone who hasnt?)
Because of that, we will just recap here.
The days of PR people simply issuing media statements, mostly in reaction to events as they unfold are gone. Sure, that role still exists, but is part of the broader scope of
the PR professional’s role
•!You should have plans for everything. Apart from an overarching company communications strategy, you will have subsidiary plans for individual activities, events and
crises. And within each of these plans are sub plans for media. A bit like a Sara Lee cake: layer, upon layer, upon layer
As the old adage goes, Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. Not sure how old that is, though.
Research, Action, Communication, Evaluation
Research, Objectives, Strategy, Implementation, Evaluation
Research, Objectives, Programming, Evaluation
Nine-step and 10-point plan
We’ll look at four planning models which will assist you preparing communication plans. They are: RACE, ROSIE, ROPE and (an ECU special) The 10-Point Plan. What they really do is provide a framework
to follow when it comes to the thought process. Most public relations textbooks, however, simply refer to a four-stage process without constraining it with an acronym
Marketing guru Philip Kotler had a four-point plan, divided into nine steps, thus:
Phase One: Formative Research
Step 1: Analyzing the Situation
Step 2: Analyzing the Organization
Step 3: Analyzing the Publics
Phase Two: Strategy
Step 4: Establishing Goals and Objectives
Step 5: Formulating Action and Response Strategies
Step 6: Using Effective Communication
Phase Three: Tactics
Step 7: Choosing Communication Tactics
Step 8: Implementing the Strategic Plan
Phase Four: Evaluative Research
Step 9: Evaluating the Strategic Plan
And ECU has a 10-point plan (NEXT SLIDE).
You should note the three common elements in each of these plans, notably Research, Objectives and Evaluation,
EXERCISE: though RACE does not include objectives, which is a major blunder. Without objectives you will never be able to measure the success of a plan.
The 10-point Plan
1. Background/research 6. Strategy
2. Problem/opportunity 7. Channels
3. Objectives 8. Timetable
4. Targets 9. Budget
5. Message 10. Evaluation
Planning a PR campaign is something you should have covered in your second year in FOundations. (Anyone who hasnt?)
Because of that, we will just recap here.
You should have with you an outline of the 10-point plan. Use it as your planning “bible”. It won’t tell you what to put in your PR plan, but it does provide a road map of
how to get there. All it does is line up the required elements. You have to be creative and produce the speciﬁcs.
CREATIVITY –!Mere novelty or gimmicks doesn’t guarantee success. We all have seen people whose creative ideas seem to flop around without any sense of direction, artists who can’t seem to apply their artistic concept. For creativity to be
effective, it must have relevance; innovative ideas need to serve a purpose. Too many campaigns never get off the ground because they are built more on novelty than on effectiveness. Some are just too cute for words; others are downright bizarre.
An inside joke in the advertising industry is that sometimes agencies win creative awards but lose the account, because their innovative advertising programs didn’t sell the product or their imaginative approach didn’t achieve the desired results for the
• Casual Research. Recollect what is already known. Think about the situation; “pick the brains” of clients, colleagues and other helpful individuals. Interview other people with experience and
expertise. Brainstorm alone or with other planners.
• Secondary Research. Look for existing information. Investigate organizational files to learn what already exists on the issue. Search the library for information from books, periodicals and special
reports. Check for similar material on the Internet (but be wary about the validity of what you find out there). Review and analyze how other organizations handled similar situations.
•!Primary Research. If necessary, conduct your own research. Appendix A: Applied Research Techniques will help with the basic primary research techniques such as surveys, focus groups and
content analysis. The appendix also discusses the ethics of research
you should gather information in three key areas:
(1) the issue you are facing,
(2) your organization or client and
(3) your intended publics.
Research does not offset the need for common sense. Your professional judgment remains the strongest resource you bring to the planning process.
Use SWOT analysis
The public relations situation may be identified as an opportunity to be embraced because it offers a potential advantage to the organization or its publics (such as the side air bags). Obstacle. On the other hand,
the public relations situation may be an obstacle to be overcome because it limits the organization in realizing its mission (such as the fear of at-risk youth).
Even in crisis situations, obstacles can be approached as opportunities. Pepsi
fought a 1993 syringe hoax by issuing video news releases showing how its production process made it impossible to contaminate the
product before it left the plant. Similarly, Johnson & Johnson used satellite news conferences when it reintroduced Tylenol after several people were killed in 1982 when someone tampered with the over-
the-counter medicine. In doing so, the company, which already enjoyed a good reputation, emerged from the crisis with even more consumer respect and confidence.
•!Use SWOT – Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
May come first
•!Sometimes your objectives will come ﬁrst. This is often the case if, for example, you are doing something proactive, like wanting to help boost sales of a product (say, a
toddler-proof lock). No, you just don’t go and take out some advertisements. Anyway, you haven’t got the money. You get PR creative and come up with a plan, like Richard
•!Setting objectives is possibly, next to research, the most important thing you should do. Without setting objectives it will be impossible to evaluate the success of a
campaign. If you haven’t listed what you hope to achieve, you won’t know if you’ve achieved it. Your objectives should be within reasonable limits. It’s a common view that
many PR programs are unrealistic in that they promise to deliver too much, then su#er when the results fall way short of what’s expected.
Chicken or the egg?
Public or stakeholder
Types of publics:
Aware, active, latent
• What comes first: objectives or publics? The tendency in marketing has been to identify objectives before selecting key publics.
The publics-before-objectives order can be used for three reasons:
(1) the first two steps in the planning process have already helped you identify the focus for your planning;
(2) publics exist in a relationship with an organization even prior to any objectives for impacting that relationship; and
(3) objectives are relevant only when they link an organization’s goals with a particular public.
•!Public or stakeholder: Publics broadly are those affected by an issue. Stakeholders have an interest in an issue and most often an influence in the outcome.
•!Types of publics:
•!Be selective in choosing publics –!While all your publics may be important in various situations, not all warrant your attention as you deal with the situation at hand. A toy company’s competitors may not be a significant public in a campaign
to regain consumer confidence, or ECU may not choose to involve its graduates in a recruiting campaign.
Stick to 3 points
Match to fit audience
Part of implementation
How you will deliver
PR’s role in
It’s hard to identify organisational problems at the best of times, but it’s even harder when managers are out of touch with their sta#. Of course, these problems, such as
morale, mostly get back to a lack of communication. This is where the PR practitioner has to be able to practice what is known as the boundary-spanning role. This is
simply the PR person being able to move across and among di#erent parts of the organisation (and outside) to gather information.
We have already talked about the manager v technican role.
In short, the PR manager/practitioner diagnoses and helps to solve problems.
Plan, don’t implement
The golden rule is to PLAN, DON!T JUST IMPLEMENT.
What managers think is least What employees believe is most
important to sta# important
8. Appreciation of work 1. Appreciation of work
9. Feeling “in on things” 2. Feeling “in on things”
10. Sympathetic help on personal 3. Sympathetic help on personal
Borman (2004) asked managers and employees to rank in order of importance 10 pre-identiﬁed morale factors.
•!As you see, the managers’ views were totally the opposite to the employees.
What does this indicate about the organisation?
What type of organisation could it be described as?
What does it need to work on?
What would be some of the things a PR person could do to improve the situation?
With the PR professional at the heart of ﬁxing communication problems, he or she has to be both a practitioner (instigator) and
•!Q. How does an organisation get information from its sta#?
•!Q. How does it store and retrieve information?
•!Q. What might hinder the implementation of valid ideas?