No. We cannot. That might come as a surprise to you as most (read : all) PR professionals and companies pride itself on the ‘control’ they have on the media. So do we really control media ? What constitutes ‘media’ is under discussion so how can you talk about ‘controlling it ? Each of this ‘media’ is a tool to reach out to your public and maintain relations. But do you really know what ‘media’ that public is consuming ?
We live in a 24X7 world and it requires a 360 degree communication approach. Now if we think logically what does that mean ? Does it mean PR companies should start a BPO like division and be on call …monitoring and controlling every step of the way. You just cannot. Not with the current retainers. So what do we do ?
Here is a radical idea: Be the Change. Lead the Change. Make the Change.
The first thing the new-age PR consultant needs to understand is that you cannot correct everything that is wrong with a company via a
cosmetic change, promote and give widespread visibility to this ‘new’ ‘improved’ image that one has created and try to control it. This scenario is ripe for a PR disaster. And this is how usually all traditional PR routes work. Guess what ? It doesn’t work anymore. Media is smart. The people are smarter. One step outta line and you are fired on twitter, FB, youtube…television channels, websites, blogs, newspapers ….and the list goes on …till you become a case study ! Can you really sustain an ‘image’ that you know is good and recommended for your company but you really don’t believe in ? How long can you maintain a facade ? With time the cracks will show.
I strongly believe that the PR professional needs to be more of a consultant …an expert… who has to identify the issue , where it is stemming from, plug the holes and start afresh by re writing the rules of PR for the company. But the change has to come from within and from the top management and then implemented across. Policies and changes are more effective when they come from top down and unless the powers-that-be at a company believe in the change it is only going to be a cosmetic change…always ! and again we go into the loop of pending disaster. There also has to be a complete cycle of internal communication to brief everyone , albeit in different versions, of the communication policy of a company before it actually starts communicating with the media outside. Every person in the company has to believe the message and live it at each of their levels before it actually becomes effective. After this you can come to the wider challenge of managing ‘media’ and ‘reputation’ to some effectiveness while balancing the two.
The PR industry needs to wake up before the world changes and the reputation management industry transforms into a whole new different avataar. It is no more about just ‘Managing Media’, ‘Image Management’ or ‘Press Liaison’. The role has matured into that of a ‘Communication Consultant’ rather than a ‘media manager’. You need to act accordingly. NOW.