Celebrating the PR professional

Archive for July, 2013

Making the shift to an in-house role

In my early PR years, I was fortunate to work with some of the biggest brands in the high – tech industry, as part of my stints with leading PR consultancies in the country. The work we delivered for those brands and the interaction with client stakeholders gave me a good understanding of the technology industry. It also gave me great insights and knowledge of the PR approach and processes adopted by leaders in the business and I’m positive, that valuable learning will play a big part in defining my career and eventually my professional success.

Another equally important learning curve for me was the ‘client servicing’ process. This seemingly mundane, yet crucial part of a PR firm – client relationship, helped provide a solid understanding of the complex nature of corporate life and client (customer) relationship management. There are several practices in client servicing which, if applied to corporate scenarios, could prove very useful across a variety of situations, through one’s corporate career.

Your success is tied to your clients’ success…
This is one mantra Public Relations firms swear by and this holds true even within corporate organisations. Typical to such corporates, PR and marketing teams act as support functions to the sales organisation and the no. 1 organisational goal is always to increase the sale of products or services or perhaps increase market share. It’s extremely important to keep this important dynamic in mind, while developing an approach to manage PR in your organisation.

Mapping your internal clients and their priorities…
Identifying your key stakeholders and their communication priorities is one of the first steps in the PR process and this should be done with the objective of getting insights to your client’s stated and implied needs. Here, I’d like to emphasise on the latter which, often plays a bigger part in determining a successful professional relationship with that client. Helping your internal clients grow their careers can often be an important factor in how effective you are perceived to be, in your role as a PR practitioner for your organisation.

Going beyond the brief…
Closely tied to the previous point is the need for a practitioner to be flexible in the way she/he engages with her/his stakeholders. When your client comes to you with a need, it is important to factor in their broader needs, both stated and otherwise, while offering them a workable solution. Even in situations where the need may go outside the realm of public relations, such as when a business stakeholder needs content support on another company project, stepping in to help out can go a long way in building rapport and gaining respect. Thus, demonstrating sensitivity to your stakeholders’ needs can help build strong professional relationships based on mutual consideration and respect.

Be the consultant you were trained to be…
Often, clients will come to you with a need that, in certain situations, could cause a conflict of priorities for your role or function. In such cases, it’s extremely important for a PR practitioner to adopt a broader view of the situation and offer the client a workable alternative where one is available, or offer valid justification for being unable to accommodate the request. Offering an alternative should be the preferred approach, since it provides opportunity to showcase one’s creativity and resourcefulness and conveys sensitivity to your client’s needs. However, unreasonable requests need to be handled tactfully. Here, setting your client’s expectations is a critical aspect of the relationship and this can be managed by simply placing your company’s ‘uber’ priorities over those specific to certain individuals or teams. Again, professional relationships are based on transparency and respect and one should work towards being the person your stakeholders turn to, for all things PR.

Another key facet of relationship management is maintaining healthy relationships with all stakeholders – both internal and external. Often, one’s professional growth depends on reputation and nurturing healthy mutually respectful professional relationships can serve as a solid foundation to strengthen one’s reputation.

To wrap up… a key requirement of corporate life is the need to constantly navigate a maze of protocol, relationships and expectations. The ability to manage these elements of corporate life may take one farther than subject matter knowledge.

Vishak Gopinath, the author of this post, is Marketing Manager, Cisco Capital India. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.