PR

Communications

(c) Jen Stebbing

There’s been a lot of re-branding of the traditional press office over the last year or so and the word communications more commonly describes the person, department or function that deals with communicating the organisation’s messages and goals to their audiences. Following the recent Royal Press Office merger there is now a department called Royal Communications at Buckingham Palace that engages rather than tells, and proactively churns out online content like a news channel, creating its own content and therefore to a certain extent, its own agenda.

I call myself a communications professional more for the generic labelling it gives me than with any real job description, but where I am head or director of communications, even part time, for a brand, organisation, event or project, it doesn’t just cover media relations (proactive and reactive). This is what we usually understand from the term ‘Press Office’ that comes from the pre-TV era. While media relations is still a hugely important part of communicating an organisation’s messages, and journalists are still incredibly influential and rightly so, for me communications as a job covers a whole raft of different responsibilities throughout an organisation.

I am now directly involved as part of my communications remit with on-line presence (websites, of course, and then whichever social media channels we use to engage audiences and push out content), branding, event organising, marketing, stakeholder engagement, gaining investment or new clients, conference and event speeches, and even sales to a certain extent.

You can’t run any organisation without communications, without communicating in some small way. PR has had a bad name, mostly because of the associations with spin, but remember what it stands for (especially when calling someone the grammatically incorrect ‘PR’!). Having a ‘Public Relations’ department actually makes more sense than having a Press Office, and comes closest in description to what the communications team would do, whether that’s in house or agency, which is: relate to the public. It doesn’t matter about the medium, it doesn’t matter about which public, as long as it’s the public/s that you want to get your messages out to, and it’s through medium/s that they relate to or engage with.

The key is to pick what your message is (always related to your organisational goals), decide who you want to communicate it to (your audience who could be customers, clients, stakeholders, etc), and use the right channels (journalists, advertising, blogs, twitter, websites, meetings) to get it to them.

Clarity

(C) Jen Stebbing

When I was trying to sum up what I do in a sentence for a short, snappy and I hope impactful about.me page, I (eventually) came up with ‘bringing clarity, energy and fresh ideas to news broadcasters, PR consultancies, special projects, young businesses and start ups.’ The most important and probably also most ambiguous of those is clarity. What do I really mean by that?

For me it’s about two things, focus and simplicity.

My industry is communications and whatever channel that might be through – broadcast journalism, writing, social media, strategic objectives, key messages, media relations, marketing or just plain old networking – I wouldn’t be able to work without clarity. It’s how I define the way I look at things and the way I’m able to help people and add value to their lives and businesses. It’s how I give friends and family advice, and it’s how I look at organisational or project goals and through that communication strategies.

Here’s what I do that brings clarity (focus and simplicity) to my projects:

1. Take a step back

Ok, this is one of those annoying “big picture” clichés, but it wouldn’t be a cliché if it didn’t work. What are your goals? But one step back from even that… Why are your goals? How do you want to feel, how will you feel when you get there? Let’s say one is successful. What does that look like for you or your company and what goals can you put in place to make you feel successful?

2. Define what’s important to you

List them. 5 things that are important to you as a person and as a company/project. Sometimes they overlap but often they don’t. Boil them down into key words, key values – those are your touchstones – if you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed, or can’t make a decision, go back to them. Is the decision you are making in line with those values? Yes – go for it. No – next!

3. Listen and look

Admittedly this is not an easy thing to do for yourself and so it’s worth getting someone (me!) to do it for you. Talk about your plans, go through your objectives, ideas, things to do – the person listening will be able to tell by listening actively and thoroughly what you’re really enthusiastic about and where your focus will be to make you most productive and successful. (You can try to outsource the things you HAVE to do but ditch the rest).

4. Don’t over complicate things

Communicating is something we all do with varying degrees of success every single day. If you have a great product or service, if you’re good at something, shout about it! That’s all there is to it. If you don’t show you believe in yourself or your product, then how can you expect others to? Focus on 2-3 short thoughts that communicate simply what you want to say about your product, project, service or company. These are your key messages – get them out there whenever you can.

5. Write a plan

I usually think of myself as pretty organised, and yet writing a plan is one of the things I find the most difficult to do. I think it’s the enormity of the task. When I actually sit down and bash it out, I’m fine, but I can put it off for literally weeks. Your plan should include all the points above and needn’t be long. Make it simple – follow a step by step guide if you need to – but make sure your audiences, your key messages and your objectives all relate back to your values every step of the way.