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Managing Public Relations
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Roshni Bhatia
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Smile Managing Public Relations - March 23rd, 2007

Why access to the C-Suite is important to communication & pr managers
Published February - March 2007

You want to have an impact in your role as a pr practitioner working in-house and you want to have an impact on the business but how can you achieve that? One answer is being part of where the decisions are being made and that means being part of the C-Suite (known as upper management i.e. CEO, COO or chairman of the board).

Gaining upper management buy-in means that your efforts will be supported and carry additional weight or importance within the organization - giving you an even greater impact on the bottom line.

A 2005 study by the Council of Public Relations Firms, found that most pr professionals of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies report to the “C-Suite,” rather than the marketing department. In addition, 63 percent of Fortune 500 companies (those raking in $6 billion in annual revenues) have their PR departments reporting directly to executive offices, as opposed to 42 percent of Fortune 20,000 companies (those making less than $100 million).

It is clear that reporting to the C-suite can have a great impact on your role and achievements but what happens when you get there if you are not valued, or even worse your role or department is outsourced?

A survey by PR News and the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America in 2006 found that pr practioners believed that the C-suite appear to have finally learnt to appreciate the value and services of its PR departments which is good news. But the same survey revealed that respondents also believed that internal corporate communications divisions could be shut down and their work outsourced as budgets get tighter.

So what can you do if you are not currently reporting into the C-Suite? How can you gain access to this inner sanctum or at least gain their buy-in? and how can you remain indispensable to this powerful inner circle?

1. Always be prepared
Never under any circumstances attend a C-Suite meeting unprepared. Meetings with the C-suite are often limited so ensure you make the right impression every time and get across your key messages.

2. Learn the business and communicate how you are contributing
You might be an excellent pr practitioner but until you understand the business environment you are operating within you will not gain respect from the C-suite. Understand and use the business language. Instigate your own meetings with a variety of business units to understand their objectives and needs and how you can assist them. Consistently suggest ways to integrate communications into the varying business strategies and articulate how your area of the business is assisting the organisation move ahead.

3. Nurture your internal relationships as well as your external contacts
As communicators we often nurture our external contacts over our internal contacts this is a mistake. Understand that internal networking is critical.

4. Outcomes not Outputs
Ensure that you’re monitoring and analyzing your results so you can show management your achievements in language they understand. Anecdotal evidence of your results is not good enough.

5. Focus on Corporate Reputation
Countless surveys have shown that CEO do value the role that PR plays in protecting corporate reputation - ensure yours is spotless and that you have crisis management plans in place.
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Roshni Bhatia
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Re: Managing Public Relations - March 24th, 2007

Managing PR: 10 steps to creating a PR capability within your organisation

1.Determine a key business reason.
You need to establish a business case. Is it for marketing support? Are there stakeholder considerations? Is there a specific business event that demands it? Is there a time related reason why now is the right time? Make your case as specific and targeted as possible.

2.Find an internal champion.
This is key. Without someone of influence or authority internally it will be an uphill battle - and the higher up the organisational tree the better. You need to identify that person, confide in them and take their advice about how to progress your case. As well as have them advocate the cause!

3.Play the Competitor Card.
Assuming your competitors are using PR you need to dissect their PR efforts and show how it has given them a competitive advantage. Where-ever possible quantify specific actions and outcomes. But don’t be afraid to also play to egos eg: “Look how competitor A’s Managing Director gets more media than ours”.

4.Focus on results.
You need to demonstrate the specific results that PR will bring. So do your research (click here for some information on measurement and evaluation tools). Decide what is most appropriate to your organisation and your management and work up your case.

5.Provide Third Party Evidence.
Do your research and gather as much information about PR and its benefits as possible. Include in your ‘case’ examples from both Australia and overseas where PR that is related to your proposition has worked. If possible include some actual award winning case studies.

6.Determine structure and process.
Will you run this internally or with the help of an agency? What business model or structure will work best? Examine how your organisation runs and what its culture is. Most importantly determine who PR will report to!

7.Decide how you will implement.
If PR is new to the organisation then you have two choices - hire a specialist PR person to a newly created position or use an agency. Most organisations starting out - unless they have a large need and a big budget - choose the agency option (click here to read about considerations and options). If that’s so you need to begin a search for a PR agency - one that has the skills, experience and knowledge to handle your specific tasks. But it will also need to be prepared to work with you to ‘get PR up’ within your organisation.

8.Work out how much.
First you need to balance three factors - how much money an agency will cost, how much internal budget will be required and how much the organisation can reasonably afford. Then you need to do the hard work - determine where the budget you need can come from. This may mean you recommending that money currently spent in certain areas be diverted to PR. And that will take you into politics!

9.Include strategy & planning in the process.
Selling the concept is one thing. But be sure you have a process to develop strategy and prepare a plan as soon as you get the go ahead. Put this as part of a very identifiable part of your proposition. Unless you do, your PR will die on the vine.

10.Get buy in.
Don’t rely just on your ‘champion’ to get you over-the-line. Make sure you get buy-in throughout the process from those who may stand to benefit from the use of PR. Not only as you ‘sell’ PR into the organisation - but especially in the first twelve months.
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