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The PR professional’s role in the Boardroom

PR professionals today play a critical role as advisors to the business, a key theme which was echoed at the PRISA Annual Conference held in Durban last month. 

The message is clear: a PR strategy can no longer stand alone, it must form part of the business strategy to drive business results for the organisation. As the role of PR continues to advance at board and executive levels, professionals must add value and deliver on business KPI’s. 

Thabisile Phumo, PRISA President and VP of Communication at Sibanye Gold explained that influence is not positional. “Every PR professional no matter their position must become influential to the business,” she believes.

And Carol Allers Issues and Crisis Communication Manager from Eskom agrees, “PR professionals are the eyes and ears of the organisation. We must bring valuable information to enable CEO's to make decisions or delay them.” As such she believes that communicators bring the real world into the room and their role has become one of educators and advisors. 

As PR professionals we have to earn the status of trusted advisor – through our experience, qualifications, knowledge of the world of communications and yes ...ours and other’s mistakes. At the same time, we need to continue to lead the charge that PR is worthy of a position at board level, because the right advice from the right person can alter how companies are perceived following their decisions and actions. 

 What is the role of the advisor? An advisor typically has in-depth or specialist knowledge about a specific area, for example in finance, legal or Government/regulatory. This role requires one to have studied/trained for a certain number of years and have experience in an area that requires specific skills and understanding which the average business person does not have. 

So what qualifies the experienced communications professional to be an advisor? 

1. An understanding of the fundamentals that underpin all communications strategies.

2. A strong understanding of the business and its competitive landscape. 

3. The most comprehensive view of the communications landscape and understanding of the unique needs of all stakeholders and how messages are delivered. 

4. An expert at creating balanced, multi-tiered programs involving a variety of disciplines and communications elements. 

5. Understanding of how to analyse and understand all the factors, including research, that influence people’s attitudes toward companies, individuals or brands. 

6. Has the skill to anticipate potential problems, needs or opportunities. 

7. Knows how to plan to improve the attitude of a group to overcome misunderstandings and promote good will. 

8. Has in-depth experience with the tools of Public Relations to carry out planned activities.

9. Provides feedback, evaluation and adjustment.   

There is a much wider issue at stake: our view of ourselves and the role we play. If we continue to view our industry and ourselves outside of the trusted circle of advisors to the business, we will never change the way others see our industry. This requires a dedication to learning, updating skills and adding breadth and depth to our PR experience. Explore new trends and ways of doing PR, join industry organisations, follow international and local research and case studies and get more experience. Whilst also sharing these with our peers and colleagues and giving them the opportunity to do the same. This means that we need to expand our general knowledge. We need to understand business, the economy, local and international politics and seek new and innovative ways of doing things. We need to understand our clients industry and business. Only then can we truly call ourselves PR advisors. 




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