#StateOfPR: how I’m doing something about it

As tweets go, the responses to my lament that the headlines from the CIPR’s latest research into the profession are depressing were at opposite ends of the scale.

The first one, from Love Bot!

Then former CIPR president Stephen Waddington, whose blog on the ’10 areas of pain’ identified in the research I was responding to.

A bit more robust, although he is pushing the industry to raise its game. It also had the ring of a demanding client or stressed out line manager (of which there are many, if the research is correct). Stephen’s blog post and the headlines in this infographic mirrored my view view that the industry needs to do more to raise standards and improve its reputation. But his challenge got me thinking: where do I – a mere manager in a small public sector comms team – sit within this snapshot? And what am I doing about it?

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Media say old habits remain with ‘new’ PR

It’s beyond doubt that PR has changed massively, and continues to do so, thanks to the opportunities created by digital communications and the diversification of traditional media.

CIPR president-elect Stephen Waddington asked a room full of comms people at the South West Communicators’ Conference in Bristol recently how many had bought a newspaper that morning, and only one confirmed that they had. It’s possible that some people in the room were too busy on their tablets or smart phones to realise he was asking them a question. But he had made the key point; that the media is changing rapidly and communicators must respond to this. Many operators in the South West are rising to this challenge with some great work, as Bristol agency Spirit demonstrated with its support for the Gromit Unleashed campaign in the city.

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How journos like to receive news (and it’s not through social media)

I went to a CIPR event in Bristol tonight which covered topics including issues management, PR in the third sector and (yes) the fragmentation of media and the audiences who consume it.

That’s a lot of ground to cover in less than two hours (although, in fairness, the event was badged as ‘a taste of public relations’). It was one of those sessions that can induce a feeling of unease about the range of tools there are to master, and how little one actually knows about any of them.

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Asking ‘so what?’ may get you somewhere

I have just read a CIPR Skills Guide piece from Kai BoschmannCircle Anglia’s former communications director, about the importance of proving value in PR.

In the piece, she compares the tendency of communicators in the sector to be measured by what we do (press releases, newsletters) rather than what we achieve (good relationships and a solid reputation).

She says we should challenge by asking ‘so what?’ more often, to ensure we can generate the strongest possible demonstration of the value of PR. Candid common sense can be of value in itself.

She also says: “The real challenge going forward is ensuring that not only does Reputation Management [sic] become the leading vehicle for business communications, but that we as communicators can add value by contributing to the development of commercial strategy and policy in the first place.”

I couldn’t agree more. At a time when housing and public sector communications is taking a hit, its leading members need to prove just what good reputation management can do.

Big Society needs local clarity to counter confusion

Debates about the meaning of the Government’s Big Society plan highlight some fundamental communication challenges for its supporters.

The most pressing obstacle can be seen in recent survey results, which suggest that most people do not understand the what the Big Society stands for. This has led some critics to suggest that it is being used to shield big cuts, rather than represent a policy shift that puts local communities in control of their destinies. The CIPR is currently debating this issue with its members. The dilemma has led the Government-supporting Sun to acknowledge that David Cameron ‘still has a mountain to climb to sell the Big Society to baffled Brits.’

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