In replying to a comment by Don Bates to a recent post on this blog, I invited him to write a guest post to better illustrate the reasons why he believes that a specific, existing and comprehensive software program (comPro Executive) can significantly support public relations professionals in adopting and adapting a new global stakeholder relationship governance operating platform which, together with many other scholars and professionals all over the world (although we might call it differently..), I believe is needed to grow and consolidate the role of public relations in today’s society.
Basically, he says, as many old and new professions have changed their conceptual and operative perspectives through the adoption of technology, so can public relations.
Thank you, Don, and here goes
Per your request, here’s an update on the first complete software for the strategic management of public relations and related functions.
Yes, the software is indeed an evolution of the Bütschi-Steyn model. It’s called comPro Executive and will be launched in the U.S. later this year or early next.
I have become an enthusiastic supporter of the software for many reasons, not only for what it can do in very practical terms now, but for what it can do, longer term, to help establish a digital framework for strategically planning, managing and evaluating the full range of public relations and public affairs functions in any organization.
Importantly, the software offers much more than media management and monitoring systems, embracing inter alia issues along with stakeholder management, investor relations, community relations, crisis communication, reputation management, and communication strategy.
It facilitates an organization’s positioning with respect to social responsibility and governance, and the communication opportunities and issues that emerge.
I’m enthusiastic enough about comPro Executive that I recently bought shares in support of its further development and have agreed to assist in its U.S. launch.
For me, the Bütschi-Steyn model (and similar software that I’m sure will surface in the near future) provides a much-needed tool for implementing Jim Grunig’s view, most conspicuously – and the views of other intellectual leaders around the world – regarding how we should practice in the years ahead.
As Jim wrote in one of the documents you referred to in your excellent September 12 post on “What Comes After Grunig”: “Shifting the public relations paradigm from a symbolic interpretive approach to a strategic, behavioral approach is crucial in a global, digital world.”
Introduced in June, 2005, at the 2nd World PR Festival in Trieste, comPro Executive has evolved over the past four years to become a fully functioning software that now includes environmental assessment for identifying strategic issues and risks that need to be dealt with by top management at the enterprise or institutional level. Equally important, the software facilitates the formulation of measurement and evaluation requirements in advance of executing communication tactics. M&E become part of the strategy and planning process from the outset, not slapped on towards the end.
Another evolution is the software’s archive function, which can be used to preserve and index public relations and public affairs plans, evaluation reports, case studies, professional advisories, lectures, articles, white papers, and other documents that collectively represent a customized digital library of strategic content – the historical memory, if you will, for the organization in question. The archives also provide a repository of best principles and practices that can be used for staff development, management training, and other internal purposes.
The software’s stakeholder management has been strengthened to provide a more powerful tool for tracking relevant stakeholder groups and recording the contact history. Most important, the software tightly integrates stakeholder relations and issues management as the pillars of strategic PR management.
Although the two-way interactive stakeholder (engagement) approach is at the core of the software’s structure and deliverables, it can be used to implement the perspective of its user through the goals and objectives that are set—be it reputation management or publicity or persuasion if that it is how a given entity views its communication priorities.
Although the software makes it easy for users to practice what Grunig and others preach, it’s clear that most professional public relations and public affairs practitioners still practice PR from a largely tactical perspective. This doesn’t mean they don’t apply strategy to what they do, or think strategically when they act. Some do. But most depend on serendipitous formation and execution, belying the seriousness with which Grunig and others rightly see the public relations role in the larger world of human relations.
Most resist putting their own and the profession’s feet to the fire when it comes to planning, managing and evaluating in a more organized and structurally integrated fashion that can meet the rigorous demands of today’s CEO’s and CFO’s. Too many practitioners still depend on creativity to make their case for PR/PA’s return on investment, in part because the C Suite and others in top management still view them as publicity specialists and media magicians, not thoughtful communication leaders who are an integral part of the top management team’s search for solutions to organizational challenges.
So, getting practitioners to look at new ways to run the public relations function isn’t easy. They are suspicious of tools that allow them to establish benchmarks by which they can measure themselves when it comes to adding value to corporate goals such as social responsibility, reputational integrity, sustainability, sound governance, transparency, legitimacy, and now authenticity.
Unlike engineers, human resource professionals, attorneys, doctors, and other well-accepted professions, public relations practitioners have yet to embrace technology as a tool for evaluating and improving their efficiency and effectiveness in the larger sense.
But in a very real sense they no longer have the luxury of avoiding the inevitable.
With software like comPro Executive, they can’t duck the fundamental proposition – i.e., if they want to be fully accepted by top management, they need to embrace tools that will help them provide the metrics and reports that top managers are comfortable having as intelligence for their executive decisions.
The public relations and public affairs profession has taken to technology as a tool for media relations and other everyday communications.
The next step is for the profession to take advantage of technology to support its top-most management concerns – to be seen, to be heard, to be listened to, to be judged as much more than media mavens and buffers to stakeholder demands.
Yes, there is a learning curve involved – but public relations and public affairs professionals are among the fastest learners in the world.
I am optimistic that they will do what’s necessary that a new generation of software is available to help lead the way.
(Here is the presentation of ComPro Executive which Don mentions in a comment included in the discussion below..toni).