A Wall Street Journal article yesterday about the Management Top 250–the most effectively managed companies–reminded me of a fundamental principle.
Good public relations is essentially the same thing as good management.
I learned that years ago reading a book by Peter Drucker, the management guru on whose principles these awards are based.
Public relations academics and seasoned professionals will say that public relations is a “management function.” We stress it in classes, at conferences, and on the job.
It’s important to stress, because the word on the street–and, sadly, even within the ranks of public relations practitioners–is that PR is merely media relations, one-way communication, or worse, purposeful spin and deception.
Public relations, properly understood, IS good management. If public relations is properly practiced, there are tangible management benefits. Practicing good PR means considering ALL publics, striving for mutually beneficial relationships with all of them, and communicating with them strategically through ALL available tactics.
As evidence, consider the five criteria of performance for the Management 250 and the corresponding public relations contribution to each:
- Customer satisfaction. Some would think immediately this has to do with marketing. But PR involves consumer relations, communication after the sale, reputation, CRM (customer relationship management) and is the basis for concepts like “permission marketing” and “relationship marketing.” Customers do not only derive satisfaction from the product or service, but from the relationship with the brand.
- Employee engagement and development. Here, human resources comes to mind naturally. But public relations professionals who specialize in internal or employee relations have much to do with this performance indicator. Communicating beyond benefits and annual performance reviews, being intentional about culture, retention, empowerment, being the ’employer of choice,’ and other objectives are ways PR enhances this aspect of management.
- Innovation. As mentioned above, culture is a key objective of internal public relations. And studies have shown that companies that are innovative don’t just hire innovative individuals but work on developing an innovative culture. Culture is based on and perpetuated by communication, the purview of internal PR professionals.
- Social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility has been a key aspect of public relations for decades. It relates to the fact that proper PR considers not just reaching but listening to all stakeholders and working toward mutually beneficial relationships. Recent research has shown more PR professionals take on the role of corporate conscience or ethical conscience of their organization. This leads to socially responsible practice.
- Financial strength. OK, maybe we leave this one to the accountants and finance experts. However, numbers 1-4 above are key drivers of performance, which is what gets the finances you are able to manage.
So, while public relations is mentioned in articles about bad management and crises, the unseen truth is that the best managed companies have a good public relations person offering strategic counsel on relationships, ethics, culture and more that are well beyond mere proficiency in communication tactics.