PLATFORM: Managing knowledge is a job for experts - Organisations should exploit their PR functions to maximise their knowledge management, says Sandra MacLeod

This summer, the Conference Board released its findings of ’Managing knowledge: The HR role, from its survey of 96 companies worldwide.

This summer, the Conference Board released its findings of

’Managing knowledge: The HR role, from its survey of 96 companies


Communications - not PR in this case - are positioned as central to the

process of knowledge management. The report sums up: ’The most

significant change in the knowledge-based economy is the shifting of

more power to the customer ... For companies to grow in this

environment, they must create new knowledge for their customers as well

as create and share knowledge within the firm.’ It then calls on HR to

be the learning link.

Arguably, the IT department may lay greater claims here, as ’virtual’

information sharing becomes the lifeblood of the enterprise. As it has

much to do with competitiveness and customers, it could be that

marketing would also want to claim its role.

Yet PR appears stunningly silent. Stunning, as it has so much to give,

share and help shape. Stunning, as it is the best placed to do so -

detached from the ’process tunnels’ that traditionally inhibit

communications across departments, let alone to other stakeholders.

Traditionally, the ad man knows little about PR, HR knows little about

customer satisfaction, market research knows little about the

organisation’s strategic objectives, and the IT department is

characteristically monosyllabic. And stunning, because unless PR raises

its profile, it risks being ignored.

Yet the PRO is best placed to be aware of stakeholders’ needs and

expectations and communicate them to those who can meet them. As the

rightful owner of communications research, PR is already privy to so

much of the knowledge that drives an organisation’s learning. PROs know,

through internal and external audits and media analyses of press,

broadcast, and e-media just where the organisation’s stakeholders


They know what kind of sentiment surrounds and infuses the


The most natural extension of their knowledge is that PR should become

the reservoir that captures and communicates this experience.

PR, given its natural strong links across teams, is the best candidate

to ensure what’s been called the institutionalisation of unselfishness -

the creation of the desire to share internally in order to serve the


The amount of ’new knowledge’ is said to be doubling in volume every 75

days. This tremendous stream of data needs to be compressed, synthesised

and headlined to create new and manageable funds of knowledge for

clients, both internal and external.

PR needs to sit at the intersecting points of a matrix through which

market intelligence, customer intelligence, supplier intelligence and

competitor intelligence all pass.

Then PR professionals will have found a coping strategy for the cold,

hard fact that intellectual capital depreciates faster and less visibly

than any other asset. The challenge is to ensure that management invests

sufficiently in creating new intellectual capital. Here is a corporate

function into which PR can step with confidence. That way it can enable

the organisation to live out the words of the Duke of Wellington, who

claimed to win his battles ’because I knew better than most people what

was going on over the other side of the hill’.

PR should have a strong hand in knowledge management and pull together

the collective efforts of all forms of communication through sound

research and measurement of the impact on the organisation’s reputation.

Only then can it rightfully earn its place as the centre of tomorrow’s

learning organisation.

Sandra Macleod is chief executive of Echo Research.

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