The communications sector, always looking for new and better ways of doing things, has jumped on board and a number of ex-government PR officials and civil servants are now bunching together to see what kind of organisation they might set up to deliver communication services through such a model.
Will it work? Well, that depends on how you measure success. The PR industry, created roughly half a century ago, can clearly demonstrate substantial success by most people’s reckonings – financial bottom line, personal reward and achievement, and of course successful client outcomes.
But social enterprises are not private PR businesses, nor are they in house PR departments. They sit somewhere between the two – not publicly owned, nor owned by private sector businesses either.
As such, the success of a social enterprise is far more focused on becoming self sufficient, and on generating not just a Return on Investment, but a Social Return on Investment. Employess need to be personally committed to – and motivated by – the aims and objectives of the wider community of which they are part.
It is not enough merely to love your clients – you also need to be an active participant in the sector in which they operate, too. Performance and performance-related pay will depend on it.
It’s an innovative approach and of course recessions are one of the most powerful driving forces for innovation, new creative ideas, and successful new businesses.
But that is not the only reason we should take an interest in social enterprises in the communications sector. They also fulfil an extremely important role in being able to retain talent in critical sectors at a time when many expert practitioners are leaving those sectors to enter new ones, or even to start new roles which move away from PR and communications altogether.
It is a major challenge to retain high quality PR talent in sectors which, by their very nature and especially in the public sector, are being hardest hit by the current economic climate.
For that reason alone, the new breed of social enterprise communications models deserve our support, and deserve to succeed.