Bruce Fraser, PRINZ President
World PR Forum 2014 plenary speaker, Professor Robert Heath from Houston University said that the PR practitioner needs to have access to and influence with the CEO of the company to be completely effective.
Nice concept but its realisation requires many, interrelated conditions to be aligned.
Foremost amongst those is a switched on CEO who understands and appreciates the value that great PR can bring to the company or organisation. He or she will be committed to high quality communications and will understand the importance of stakeholder engagement and reputation management. Their previous experience and worldviews will have prepared them to appoint a high performing PR manager. The CEO will appreciate the value-add that the PR person brings to the executive table where the PR perspective is appreciated as much as those provided by the CFO or operations manager.
That PR manager will be experienced in a wide range of communication practices, though probably not all and be well qualified with a communications or PR degree.
Additionally s/he will be well versed in business practices and speak the language that matters most to the business that s/he is working in. Balance sheets and finances will not be scary items of discussion but will be integral parts of the way that the PR Manager works. S/he will have a deep understanding of the company, its goals, values and strategic direction. In fact, they will have contributed to the development of those high level, executive business planks.
Another alignment feature will be the ability of the PR Manager to demonstrate ongoing value in furthering the company goals. With research, measurement, deep understanding of strategic planning, highly-effective implementation and robust reporting back, the PR Manager will consistently demonstrate that the professional discipline helps lead to stronger corporate outcomes.
Of course, these are all undertaken ethically. The PR manager will adopt transparent, honest approaches pointing out the risks, opportunities and best practices that will enable the company to better achieve its goals.
So, how often does this nirvana exist in New Zealand companies and organisations? There are some great examples of PR practitioners operating at this level either in-house or as consultants. Unfortunately though, they are not as common as the PR industry would ideally like to see. There are too few enlightened CEOs and sadly, not enough PR Managers who can achieve the alignment of those other features that will result in them contributing strongly around the executive table.
In my ideal world, all major companies will have a great PR person at the top – someone who works proactively in the business and not simply the person who produces the media release, the brochure or the web content.