Hughes PR, Public relations

People in PR – back to the future

Over the 25 years I’ve enjoyed since establishing Hughes, many people have asked the secret to survival (and success)?  It’s the people.

Against that background, who do we need in our profession in the future?  In part, it may be a matter of going back to the future.

Someone came to me for career advice recently and they asked the question:  “Do you still hire journalists?”

Interesting question.  Twenty-five years ago, that’s all we hired!  Ten years ago, hardly any – instead we were looking for subject matter experts or “industry professionals.”

My answer last week was a bit more circumspect.  I said that I expected there would always be a place for people with a background in the media.

Why? Because part of our role will be to tell stories.  And who better to assist in that process than story tellers?

But beyond that, journalists have the ability to cut to the chase, get to the heart of a yarn, cut through the crap and find the angle – good or bad.  And the latter skill is as important, if not more important, than the former.

Being able to proactively identify issues; honestly appraise reputational risks; fearlessly advise on addressing those risks and effectively assist in neutralising or managing them to the benefit of an organisation is as important to the end game as promoting the positives.  Otherwise, it’s a matter of two steps forward and at least one step back in the increasingly important “trust race”.

Journalists are also used to working to a deadline – as is the PR industry.  We know there is no news in old news and that – thanks to social media – no news can become global news in seconds. And our profession knows what that can mean in terms of reputational risk or opportunity.

Increasingly, every organisation will require speedy and effective communication protocols and delivery channels to manage their reputations or protect their brands – and PR provides the best resource for doing this.

Just as a matter of interest, there are now more journalists in Australia on so-called the dark side (ie in PR) than there are on the bright side of mainstream journalism.

Having made that point, however, our industry very much also needs to offer a mix of skills.

From a communication generation and delivery perspective – to ensure accuracy, context, strategic perspective, and most of all results, whether it’s in media, social communities, or legislation.

We need people who understand strategy as well as those who can learn it while delivering it.  PR teams made up just of old blokes like me will go backwards but equally, those digital natives who rely on enthusiasm and technology alone are similarly destined for a short stay.

Why? Because as I have said before, unless digital and social platforms are utilised strategically to meet organisational goals, they remain toys – not tools.


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