EDITORIAL: The PR industry must work harder to secure a relevant place in the employee comms sector

Employee communications may be considered the (pre-glass slipper) Cinderella of the PR brief, but it has reached a new level of relevance to the corporate family. Unfortunately, the PR industry may be finding itself distracted by the constant media and IR pressure to remember that this constituency is facing huge changes at a rapid pace.

Employee communications may be considered the (pre-glass slipper) Cinderella of the PR brief, but it has reached a new level of relevance to the corporate family. Unfortunately, the PR industry may be finding itself distracted by the constant media and IR pressure to remember that this constituency is facing huge changes at a rapid pace.

USA Today reports that for the first time in four years, employers are cutting healthcare benefits rather than increasing them. Pay raises are averaging less than 4%, and the end-of-year bonus is taking on the same phantom dimensions as the Ghost of Christmas Past. The threat of layoffs and instability makes employees cling to positions they may no longer like. At the same time, senior executives know only too well that the good will of employees must be sustained in order to protect and extend the brand value and corporate reputation, as evidenced in our recent CEO Survey. Internal commitment to the company may not be a tangible benefit to be reported to shareholders, but it has a substantial impact on the bottom line, as every good manager knows. But too often the job - more, the mission - of employee communications is taken for granted. It is decidedly unglamorous in the PR pantheon. As a former practitioner of employee communications, I can tell you that the job description often seemed indiscernible from those of newsletter editor, researcher for MBA-bound interns, customer service manager, and global mail carrier. However, there are good examples of the importance placed on internal communications. Companies like General Motors have raised the bar for practicing strategic employee outreach. Agencies like Ketchum have practices dedicated to workplace communications. The problem is that unless more in-house and agency PR teams take ownership of this function, it will either be relegated to an airless silo, or taken up in earnest by other departments in the corporation, such as human resources, a discipline that has done much to expand its remit within companies. The PR industry should not allow its relevance in this area to become just another fairy tale. PRWeek's back page gets a facelift Faithful readers will notice that our back page has a new look. So long "Last Call," long live "Diary." The new section includes "PR Play of the Week," which pays homage to the subtle, opportunistic, and just plain lucky PR moments from the week's headlines. A new competition called "Boilerplate" awards a prize to the reader who can identify the company from its press-release jargon. Richard Laermer of RLM Public Relations contributes a weekly column on the latest gadgets and grown-up business toys. "PRWeek Clip Book" looks back at some big headlines you will remember from the past three years. A weekly book review will tackle the latest publications relating to business, communications, and, in keeping with the eclectic PR sensibility, a range of other topics. Closet book reviewers out there are welcome to submit ideas. Finally, our faithful Tinseltown columnist has been rebranded "The Publicist." I hope you enjoy these new back-page elements. And even if you don't, please write in to let us know what you think.

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