Cornerstone or Afterthought?

by Frank L. Williams

A cornerstone can be defined as an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based.

For a public relations program to be truly effective, it must be a strategic cornerstone that helps leaders guide an organization’s decision-making, not an afterthought that only receives sporadic attention when the leaders want publicity or need to repair a public relations crisis.

When I was in college, many of my professors described public relations as a “management function.” While they were on the right track, I don’t think they went far enough down that track. In my view, public relations is more of a leadership function than a management function. As both Stephen Covey and Warren Bennis articulated, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

When properly understood and applied, an effective, comprehensive public relations program can help ensure that your organization is pointed in the right direction. If you are an organizational or business leader, this starts with you. You must evaluate your own public relations mindset:

  • Have you developed strategic communication goals that are designed to help achieve your long-term organizational goals?  Note that this assumes that you have clear goals for your organization.
  • Do you consider how key publics might react to business decisions?
  • Have you lifted your head up from your daily grind to contemplate what long-term communication goals you need to achieve and what groups you need to reach to achieve them?
  • If you have a staff member or outside advisor dedicated to public relations, are they a part of your strategy team or do you view them as a mere technician who is called on to perform certain tasks?

Has public relations been a cornerstone of your leadership philosophy or an afterthought? The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. Have you clearly identified your organization’s key publics? Are you effectively building rapport and understanding with them? Do you have a plan to communicate with them over the long haul? If not, now is the time to make a change.

If you’re interested in more effectively integrating public relations into your organization’s strategy and your leadership philosophy, drop us a line.

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Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.