Paul Holmes

A trio of resolutions to help the PR industry's prospects for the coming year and beyond

A trio of resolutions to help the PR industry's prospects for the coming year and beyond

As we enter another new year, I have three resolutions to propose.

First, PR people should resolve to listen better. I have a friend who is fond of telling me that PR people are capable of holding one half of a good conversation. By that he means that they do a good job of telling their story, or that of the entities for which they work, but are less effective when it comes to bringing information back into the organization from outside sources - particularly those that are critical of the organization. However, all relationships are built on two-way communication. As such, PR pros add the greatest value when they listen as well as they talk.

Second, PR people should resolve to be better business people. I'm not talking about agency management. I'm talking about understanding the business of the client companies for which they work. If there's one criticism I hear time and time again from CEOs and others, it's that PR people don't understand the business of business: They can't read a balance sheet, they don't grasp the supply chain, they do not know enough about all the factors that make running a company such a challenge. Sure, they understand the media, but to be taken seriously inside the corporation, they must get a better handle on the business.

Third, PR people should resolve to be more courageous. If there's one thing that defines counseling, as opposed to mere tactical execution, it's having the courage to deliver facts and opinions that senior managers don't necessarily want to hear. True counselors don't hesitate to speak the unpopular truth, to remind others of their responsibilities, or to offer opinions even when their views have not been solicited. To truly add value to their organizations, PR people must be prepared to inject their views into corporate conversations more forcefully.

I've devoted 20 years to writing about this business for two reasons. The first one is because I believe that when it's practiced properly, PR can help align the goals of the most powerful institutions in the world with the needs and desires of the society in which those institutions operate. The second reason is because I believed that the gap between what PR was (and is) and what it could be was enormous - and that in my own small way I could help to close that gap.

For all the industry's problems, and for all that helps the gap remain significant, I remain bullish on the future of the PR industry - particularly if those who practice it on a daily basis resolve to do these three things, and all the other little things they know they need to do to earn the respect the profession deserves.

  • Paul Holmes has spent the past 17 years writing about the PR business for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation Management. He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor of www.holmesreport.com.

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