The First Five Public Relations Challenges

In this digital era where competition is in our eyes for say, either product or service for a company, or leadership, influence or trust for government offices, non profit organizations, reputation for a charitable organization – communication is nothing but vital. What kind of communication to promote your company or organization? The more complex an organization, the more sophisticated and strategic communication is needed. The function of communication in any organization is known as public relations, or in a more practical way, most corporate world name it as corporate communication – although, corporate communication is only a part of public relations universe.

If you know that public relations or PR in short, is a marketing tool, a means to promote goods and services – you really have to upgrade and widen your horizon. Today, public relations has undergone a progressive development both as a growing science and a professional practice. In Indonesia, Elizabeth Goenawan Ananto or professionally called EGA, is the only figure who consistently develops the fundamental concept of public relations as a strategic management function, a benchmark concept developed by Dr James Grunig, the global guru of public relations from University of Maryland, USA.

Let me highlight the five public relations challenges:

 

(1) Hiring the best people for the next generation of PR professional

Throughout my 25 years career in public relations, I have been witness the evolution of public relations development in Indonesia. When I was starting out in the early 1990s, a the head of public relations unit at the Trisakti University, the role of public relations was merely technical function as such promotion and publicity, press releases, documentation and organizing ceremonies.

Now, the communication landscape has changed dramatically. Competition, globalization, technology and other advances in the business world, they create these changes. With the ever-expanding role of public relations professional: a counselor, strategist, business expert, marketing guru, media specialist – it brings more significant need to attract the right person to move into a more strategic level where a PR professional should focus on diversity function. For more senior level, a candidate with a degree in communication is no longer suitable to sit at the managerial position, let alone, on the decision making table as the profession demands it. Company should seek people with a variety of talents : in business, in marketing with global mindset, a strategist with research knowledge and skills to be able to analyze the environments that will have an impact toward the organization he or she works with. In short, a PR professional should think, speak and do as a manager, rather than as a communicator alone – and only by understanding the management, thus a PR person can be an effective person that could be expected to contribute significantly to the bottom line of an organization.

 

(2) Educating the business community about the real value of PR

Most people know that ‘public relations’ term is a means of marketing tools. When I asked some senior executives in company they stated that the most important task for PR people is to avoid negative publicity of the company. Therefore, media relations seems to be the core value of PR. Once you learn public relations beyond marketing concept, you will have a tremendous opportunity to develop this concept whether you are working in government offices, private companies, or NGO. The real values of PR seem to be somewhere hidden in the minds of PR professionals. They forget to educate business community or society at large. Being a management function, public relations can never stand alone. This concept offers wider and more strategic thinking while the application requires management support. Public relations beyond Marketing is fundamentally a strategic communication concept directed to the targeted audience by using multi-communication channels to achieve change in attitude – prior to buy a product or service – tangible or intangible goods such as leadership, influence, trust and reputation. In short, the real value of PR is to create people’s change behavior – not to produce brochures, or events that costs a substantial amount of resources. Once PR can change people’s behavior, that is the success. Public relations is the agent of Change.

EGA briefings is here as Your Partner in Change. We listen, we analyze, we talk to your senior management team, and we recommend you on how to develop PR into a more strategic function.

 

(3) Developing a culture of success

Culture is difficult to talk about as you can neither touch, nor see it. Culture is what an organization or company believes and how it behaves. It is manifested in many different ways. We in EGA briefings, are committed to put highly on the quality rather than quantity. For the past 10 years, we organize Public Relations Week Indonesia (2005-2014), as we believe that a culture of success must be inspirational for those PR stakeholders : the management, practitioners, academia, media and the students alike. A culture of success inspires people to do the best. To be the best in our profession and to set a certain standard of achievement. Anyone wants to be associated with excellence and we all want the challenges of gaining that exclusive reputation.

In 2012, we initiated the International Public Relations Summit, being the premier of public relations conference in the Asian region. Rather than promoting international conference domestically which requires hundreds of dollars to attend, we bring the best people – the gurus, academic experts and world-class speakers of public relations to Indonesia. A culture of success must be motivational as it sets a high standard of excellence in providing recent trends, latest challenges, conceptual development, updating strategies and skills, encouraging research, measurement and evaluation. So the key factors of success are inspirational, motivational, excellence and measurable.

 

(4) Socially and personally responsibility

As a public relations professional, we are facing with the simple truth: Integrity.

We have been undergoing business climate change and witnessed so many companies fall into serious lapses of their leaders and their senior executives. Corporate misbehavior, greed, private deals, partnership, global tension that all caused by the absence of integrity. In public relations, once you lose you integrity, you are losing the deal. Does it happen in Indonesia? Is there any link between integrity and behavior or communication and reputation? Too many to mention, people often forget that integrity should start from the top of any organization.

Seventy two percents of a company’s reputation is linked to the CEO’s reputation. CEOs are the top drivers for achieving reputation. The responsibility for restoring trust in any organization rest primarily on the top management shoulders.

There is no doubt, that now we are challenging with the expanding role of ethics, credibility and trust.

No trust begins from outsiders. Internal public relations will help you creating intensive collaborative effort in practicing more transparency on daily basis, such as top management, senior management, and employees at all levels. As public relations is the agent of change, it can bring the aura of integrity and trust, participation and empowerment, fairness and diversity as well as social responsibility to internal public that can be facilitated by the synergy of human resource and public relations departments.

 

(5) Communicating in a globalized world

The world is globalized more than we can image. We have very limited capacity to cope with the impact of this globalized world. The supply and demand, the market, the competition no longer happen in several countries, they are in global scope. On the contrary, public relations practitioners must face the fragmentation of media, the re-grouping of stakeholders, the ever increasing public scrutiny on organization and the leader. With the raising of citizen journalism, local news within one second can become a global issue being blown up by social media networks. Should you rely on your communication skills alone – you will be left behind. Am I losing my job in the near future?

  • Communicate your position on issues in national and international perspectives.
  • Demonstrate your track record. Try to find challenges and stay alert.
  • Focus more on business or organization goals and objectives by demonstrating the changes on public perception of your company rather than claiming success of your PR activities.

Strategic communication is required to capitalize on good quality, to overcome poor public perception on the practice of public relations.

  • Start shifting your target of public relations activities.
  • Develop your management skills, research and IT skills
  • Try to focus more on the outcome of your PR work, the changes of people’s behavior – by doing so, you will stay on demand.