How well should your PR professional understand your business and industry?
My perspective is that to do a truly good job we must understand a business and not just repeat information to media and other target audiences.
As PR consultants we have to be able to understand our client’s business well enough to come up with regular story ideas and be able to identify where they fit into the news cycle. Additionally, we need to understand where communications opportunities lie for the organization with the groups they are targeting. This can’t be done well without a solid understanding of the business and the industry in which the company operates.
Over the years I have learned that when I finally feel I truly understand my client’s organization, I should ask, “what don’t I know?” There is always a little more to learn. One test to see if you really understand the business and the industry in which it operates is the quality of story ideas that you come up with. If you think these ideas are interesting and the media does not, more homework is needed.
With this said, PR consultants – even if we are specialized – will inevitably encounter something we may not have heard of or fully understand. This is normal. What is important in a vital or time-sensitive situation is our PR ability and training. Whether for retail, environmental or financial services industry, the process is the same: identify the problem, figure out how this affects all stakeholders, and develop a strategy which will answer this problem as quickly and accurately as possible while safeguarding the reputation of your client. These are the skills that show true leadership in times when clients are most vulnerable and ultimately why we are retained.