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
Sandra Macleod is chief executive of Echo Research.