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  • Writer's pictureAlexander M. Wegner

Effective Public Relations Must Be Authentic

(C) Caroline Forsey

ORGANIZATIONS ACROSS SECTORS TEND TO CONSULT COMMUNICATIONS PROFESSIONALS, in order to effectively convey their objectives and ongoing developments, or in an attempt to preempt or mitigate crises. Traditionally, such professionals have channeled soothing but fabricated information--entailing either overstatements or understatements--to relevant stakeholders. Contrary to the assumptions inherent in engagement thus configured, stakeholders tend to be capable of distinguishing authentic from unauthentic information, and are likely to form corresponding perceptions of the entity in question. In light of the unparalleled accessibility of information, and the ease with which information can be communicated, organizations are evermore transparent, and the public not easily fooled.

Communications professionals must, therefore, adapt to the particulars and dynamics that are characteristic of a digital age, one of big data, instant access, and universal insight. Optimal adaptation, prone to increase value and quarterly profits, should be threefold.

FIRST, communications professionals must tailor their tactics to a long-term strategy. This presupposes a thorough understanding of industry and market dynamics, along with trends, while also requiring steadfast commitment to serving rather than pleasing respective clients. All too often, consultants please at the cost of service, so to safeguard quarterly profits, which undermines their value and that of clients in the long-run. Service must, arguably, challenge both the serving and the served to be effective and beneficial.

SECOND, communications professionals must transition from talking about clients to advocating the very work clients are engaged in; they must illuminate the value generated, while acknowledging the negative externalities induced. In an age of instant access, messages that incorporate publicly available information, and yet are more intriguing, even more revealing, and conducive to conversation, promise to resonate best.

THIRD, communications professionals must conceive of themselves as shareholders, stakeholders, and consultants; in other words, they must strive to operate inclusively. Communications professionals who act as shareholders, understand that effective communication presupposes close collaboration with clients, as an integral component of client teams rather than an estranged third-party. Communications professionals who act as stakeholders, grasp that the digital age has empowered their recipients, who demand customized messages that reflect attained insights and evident interests. Communications professionals who successfully act as shareholders and stakeholders, are indeed premier consultants--proposing tactical steps in recognition of the big picture.

Clearly, public relations is at a crossroads. Clients pay to be served, and therefore deserve informed and creative advice that transcends mere rhetoric. Stakeholders will come to be evermore informed, rendering them prone to be skeptics, whose attention and action necessitates authenticity. Amid a digital age, competitive communicators must serve clients accordingly, and engage rather than address recipients, at all times fully aware of industry and market dynamics. Thereby, communications professionals will come to deliver creative work that yields high-impact outcomes, preventing the shallow, predictable, and despised content that has distorted impressions of public relations at the expense of its effectiveness. Value, not quarterly profits, ought to inspire strategy.

Effective PR must be authentic, promising to mobilize journalists in search of a meaningful story, to engage the public eager to partake in what is, and to benefit clients striving to elevate their work to yet another level. Authentic public relations treats clients as colleagues, overestimates recipients, and reflects passion for the to be presented product or service. Effective PR is nothing more than the means toward an end that entails the creation of value for shareholders, stakeholders and communicators alike. By lending a voice to those pursuing value, public relations can positively transform what is.

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