The 2017 European Communications Monitor report has been published recently detailing challenges facing strategic communicators in 50 countries. In this guest post, Anastasiya Shyrina, provides her perspective on the practicalities of PR management in Ukraine.
My friends know that I work in public relations. What they frequently don’t know is what exactly I do every day. Looking back at my 5-year career full of diverse hands-on experience, I came up with a list of 15 typical tasks which pay my bills. Ironically, PR as a sphere has certain reputational problems itself. For instance, many people believe PR is only about socializing, being “likable” and wearing nice clothes.
In my experience, employees from Communications department spend their lives performing the following functions:
Public relations professional strives to create a positive reputation for his/her client with the help of information materials. He/she is behind organization’s press releases, feature articles, blog posts, success stories, official statements and speeches. A great deal of time is spent on crafting key messages, ensuring their alignment with the overall business goals. From social media management to crisis communications, content is king. And communicators are presented with a daily challenge to produce captivating, attention-grabbing texts.
2. Developing social media marketing policies
In a world where people are glued to their mobile devices even in parks on a sunny day, check out social accounts every other second and happily embrace the culture of liveblogging, it seems natural for brands to incorporate smm policies into overall communication strategies. PR manager shows organizations how to leverage web networks for business development purposes. He or she chooses the most appropriate channels (for instance, LinkedIn is ideal for B2B, while Pinterest or Instagram are best for B2C segment), sets up corporate accounts, proposes content directions (quotes? humour? guest posts from partners?), prepares content plans, ensures timely publishing. Communication officers constantly analyze effectiveness of their smm efforts and improve initial strategies based on the acquired knowledge. Some companies allocate budgets for promotion on social media. In this case, PR manager plans and runs advertising campaigns.
3. Building strong personal brand of President/Chief Executive Officer
Communicators turn senior managers into thought leaders. They identify relevant publicity opportunities, organize interviews, land speaking engagements for CEOs. Most of the columns, welcome remarks, official statements published on behalf of top managers are actually authored by PR pros. Communication specialists offer guidance on leading personal accounts in social media, prepare directors for participation in press events, provide information support whenever it’s needed. In some cases PR executive is expected to educate his/her boss on the importance of visibility and make sure he/she is willing to collaborate with media. Is your colleague camera shy? Make him/her a popular blogger! The trick is in finding appropriate formats everyone is comfortable with.
4. Analysing competitors’ PR activities
PR gurus love to spy on competitors! You can take advantage of their wins and learn from their mistakes. Noticed an interview with the rival’s CEO in a well-known magazine? They might express interest in your topic as well. Communicators pitch journalists story ideas, offer expert knowledge on a range of industry-specific questions. This proactive approach always pays off: media either publishes the next piece with the main focus on your public figure or you become one of the trusted sources for the new big material on the same topic. Communication setbacks experienced by competitors show us what types of reputational crises may potentially arise, and how to deal with them. If you find yourself in the middle of a scandal, draft and publish official position as quickly as possible. This tactic deprives competitors of the opportunity to do the talking for you, provides journalists with the information they need to complete stories on the hot topic, communicates your point of view to the wider public. PR experts help organizations to remain ahead of pack in the business game by keeping a close eye on similar companies and taking necessary steps to outperform them.
5. Researching popular trends and helping clients to capitalize on them
Communication specialists browse social news feeds, read magazines and attend professional events during regular business hours for a good reason. Knowing what’s going on right now in their respective industries is a must. Otherwise, how can you maintain an expert status? PR people are on the constant lookout for popular topics. Their job is to spot a movement and then naturally join it by producing relevant information materials, providing commentary to media outlets, hosting events or giving speeches on what’s hot and trendy. This approach allows public relations pros to voice corporate messages and win brand mentions without being intrusive. Another part of professional development is about growth in strategic communications. Clients benefit from this as well. Several years ago PR community actively discussed infographics – a new exciting format to present complex information. While there is nothing ground-breaking about infographics anymore, it is still widely used by brands today. Who reaped most of the rewards in this case? Companies that were the first to embrace infographics! The same will continue to happen in the future. That’s why communicators are in charge of discovering and applying innovations.
6. Drafting and executing complex promotion strategies
Surprisingly, not every organization follows a certain promotion strategy, or even has one in place. Public relations specialists work on day-to-day tasks, chasing deadlines, addressing challenges that spring up every now and then. Yet not to lose sight of the bigger picture, make sure the company is moving in the right direction, it’s crucial to develop PR strategy and then stick to it while performing routine duties. Good strategy contains brief analysis of the current situation, clearly outlines communication goals, presents general vision for the future. By describing concrete steps needed for attainment of the short- or long-term objectives, by setting preliminary deadlines for each task and choosing people responsible for implementation PR managers help promotion departments keep on the right track, continuously deliver tangible results, save tons of time as well as focus on what’s really important for their companies.
7. Planning and carrying out thematic media campaigns
Communicators are busy people. When nothing happens in the outside world, they start creating buzz over long-standing issues themselves. Instead of taking a break and celebrating a rare moment of silence with a cup of favourite coffee, PR heroes turn on proactive mode. Visibility experts initiate complex media campaigns when their employer seeks to bring specific issues to public spotlight, create multi-channel pressure on key decision makers and thus solve a number of well-defined real problems. Such campaigns are usually tied to specific events, holidays or activist programs. To spark public interest in the given subject and then maintain it until the desired outcome is achieved, Communication professionals employ a wide variety of instruments, including video announcements, press releases, Facebook flash mobs, Twitter rollouts and public discussions. If everything is done right, a steady flow of media inquiries will follow, resulting in massive coverage for the client.
8. Organizing and holding press events
PR pros know how to throw a party for journalists. They develop programs for formal press conferences and routes for informal press tours. Media friends are presented with an opportunity to receive information from company experts, cultivate relationships with PR colleagues, acquire memorable experiences. Inventive outreach officers come up with the format, concept and topic of the event, choose appropriate location, draft scenario. Top-notch press events held on a regular basis allow to form pools of loyal journalists, who help companies spread corporate messages and in some cases turn into dedicated brand evangelists.
9. Devising loyalty programs for journalists
If a company invests in PR, it recognizes the influence of media and wants to earn respect of the key outlets. Advocacy specialists help clients achieve just that via well-thought-out loyalty programs. Is it possible to make journalists like you? Definitely. PR managers congratulate partners with holidays, organize press events, invite reporters to corporate parties. Communicators initiate competitions for journalists to learn who is best in the given field and recognize their talent with special awards. Simple things like addressing media inquiries in a timely fashion or linking journalists with your business partners when necessary go a long way in nurturing loyalty.
10. Conducting media monitoring analysis
Days when effectiveness of PR work could be called into question are long gone. Software developers have designed reliable tools for media monitoring analysis, which calculate the number of media references, define tonality of the earned coverage, name the most popular topics and identify channels used for promotion. It is possible to automatically list publications with the main focus on your client. One can also quickly scan materials where public figure in question plays secondary role. Having all this useful data right at their fingertips, visibility experts provide reports on the achieved results, analyse setbacks (if any) as well as present key takeaways with the list of proposed next steps for the communication team.
11. Managing PR Department staff and subcontractors
Depending on the size and objectives of the firm, it may or may not have a PR department. For instance, international business association receives dozens of media inquiries per month, holds numerous events for press and has an active president at helm who wishes to remain in the spotlight. Such an entity needs Communications team, because one person simply won’t be able to take on everything. PR manager organizes work of the department, delegates tasks to employees with suitable skill sets, controls quality. He/she makes sure team members contribute equally to the organization’s success, creates opportunities for their professional growth and career advancement. Smaller companies usually hire one PR professional who cooperates with subcontractors (designers, copywriters, editors) in driving marketing agenda forward. Good communications executive is able to deliver stellar results by productive, conflict-free collaboration with colleagues.
12. Dealing with reputation crises
PR people are charged with saving the company’s reputation in the event of a scandal. Communicators might not be the ones to blame for the bad press, but they are expected to minimize its harmful effect. Imagine the following situation: you wake up one morning and see the flood of negative messages about your client in the news feed. Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it? PR gurus prevent such materials from spreading like wildfire. What they usually do is finding the original source and asking owners of the website to put provocative piece down. Another logical step is to release official statement regarding the problem in question. Outreach pros know when it’s best to step back and apologize, and when it makes sense to act assertively in guarding the organization’s point of view. By responding to countless inquiries with carefully crafted argumentative messages PR managers not only confront negativity in the media space, but also significantly expand the network of relevant journalists.
13. Boosting traffic to the corporate website
Modern-day communicators are skilled in digital promotion. They know the ropes of search engine optimization, corporate blogging, online advertising. PR folks consult business owners on popular features, growth hacking techniques, assess user-friendliness of the websites. Contemporary communication professionals work jointly with senior marketing executives on attracting visitors, turning prospects into customers, and customers into lifelong brand advocates.
14. Leading internal communications
Communication is not only about impressing external audiences. It can also help organizations build highly efficient loyal teams. I think everyone would agree that happy employees are the best ad for any company. Dedicated staff members talk favourably about their companies both offline and online, help PR managers spread the word by sharing corporate posts, linking communicators with useful contacts (what if your system administrator plays chess with a famous blogger?) as well as by creating unique content with appropriate messaging on their own. For all that to happen, organizations should take internal communications seriously. Experts on public affairs together with colleagues from human resources department find the best ways to congratulate team members with holidays, express gratitude for their tireless work and celebrate professional anniversaries.
15. Acting as organization’s spokesperson
PR professionals know their organizations inside out. This makes them perfect public figures. When CEO isn’t available for an interview, or simply doesn’t want to speak with media, communicators step up and offer themselves as experts. I’ve heard people say PR isn’t the right path for those who want fame. In reality, it’s always up to you. Some specialists choose to remain in the shadows while others give lectures, write opinion pieces and provide commentary for journalists. If it’s not against corporate policy, communication officers act as another powerful voice of the organization, reinforcing its promotional efforts with a wealth of their own ideas and knowledge.
About the author: Anastasiya Shyrina is the Founder and Chief Editor at PR Wiz, professional blog for Public Relations practitioners, and Communications Officer at The American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, international business association. You can follow her via Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nastya_Shyrina and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anastasiya-shyrina-silichenko-04749863/