Have we arrived as communication consultants?

As PR professionals (or should I say communication consultants), we’re often asked how a public relations agency can bring strategic advantage to the client organization. This emanates from the fact that some sections within client organizations continue to view PR as more of a tactical funnel to push a company’s pre-defined messages through to the target audience.

Faced with a similar question recently at a client pitch, my response was to raise the point of how PR can actually help develop the very message which it is meant to deliver. To some organizations, that may sound blasphemous since crafting the company’s message is viewed as being within the sole purview of those in the organization’s top echelons. To that I would say that while it is imperative that the crux of the message comes from those who have their fingers on the pulse of the business but the manner in which it is crafted should be entrusted to communication professionals. Left to themselves, company officials may craft a message which is either too technical or self-centered or worse, even self-glorifying. In all such cases the message would either be ignored or downright dismissed by the audience.

Many organizations have begun to understand the role that the PR agency can play in developing the key messages. At Text100, our experience at organizing dedicated messaging workshops for many of our clients have given us the opportunity to demonstrate the immense value that the agency can add in message development.

The messaging workshop involves deciding the messaging architecture and defining the lead message as well as messages specific to various business groups — in consensus with the senior leadership and corporate communications teams. The messages are then measured on various parameters — so they are strategic, relevant, persuasive and targeted at the audiences. It is indeed heartening to witness the interactivity that such day-long sessions evoke when each message is debated and analyzed under various circumstances. In these workshops, the role of the session leader is crucial. It is important that the session leader is external to the organization so as to maintain neutrality, encourage all participants to contribute and act as the industry voice. Who better to play the role than a seasoned PR professional.

In my view, it is consultancy in areas such as message development that establishes the strategic role that PR is meant to play for client organizations. At Text100, my experiences at messaging workshops for my clients has helped me answer the one nagging question often put to me by clients as well as my counterparts in advertising and marketing agencies – Have PR professionals truly arrived as communication consultants to their clients? The answer is most definitely a resounding ‘Yeah!’

» Image courtesy John Trainor