October President’s Message

Can I Give You Some Advice?

After listening to Virginia Lottery executive director Paula Otto, APR, and goHappy CEO and founder Shawn Boyer talk about how public relations professionals can win respect from company leaders at PRSA Richmond’s September luncheon, I thought, “Wow! That was some awesome advice.”

Some people bristle when given advice. No matter the manner in which it was delivered, there are some who will always take it as criticism, reprimand or judgement.

Ancient Latin writer Publilius Syrus said, “Many receive advice, only the wise profit by it.”

Recently communications professionals from across the country offered some advice in a PR News article, “PR’s Strategic Advisory Role in the Age of Blurred Job Functions: 24 PR Leaders Speak.” While most PR practitioners would probably say they know most everything said by the experienced and highly credentialed interviewees, I would argue that hearing the advice again certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Because I know PRSA Richmond’s members are busy, and because the article is a long read in website standards, I’ve picked some of my favorite pieces of advice to share. This advice is more practical than poetic, but the statements struck me. My hope is that you will use the suggestions below as positive encouragement and inspiration.

The pros offering these words of wisdom probably learned from the advice of others along their professional journey. Before you are too quick to dismiss these ideas or get defensive about the suggestions, remember Ben Jonson’s advice, “He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.”

  • A PR person’s role is to maintain consistency, focus and direction.
  • Public relations needs to be a more experiential industry.
  • Give the audiences a reason to engage and interact with us as brands and communicators.
  • The PR person should be the pacesetter for all written communications in the organization. It’s important to set yourself as the bridge and vehicle for all things related to your company’s messaging and narrative.
  • Acting as a unifying agent with key departments can bring major value-add to a PR practitioner’s role.
  • Make yourself mission critical by measuring results rather than activities. You don’t want to be thought of as simply a transactional piece of your organization.
  • First, determine the end state. Second, isolate the metric. Third, create a feedback loop to ensure results, and not just activities, are being measured.
  • Alignment and communication with the business divisions are essential for success.
  • Effective public relations leaders drive efficiency into their organization’s operations.
  • Make sure your public relations strategies and tactics tie directly back to your company’s business objectives in clear and tangible ways.
  • Communications = conversation, and we must commit ourselves to being active participants in that conversation so that we can advise and lead.
  • If you want a seat at the strategy table, you better earn it by understanding the conversations. It’s imperative to have commercial and financial sensibilities to provide better advice and counsel that influences the business.
  • As liaisons and cultural monitors, public relations leaders are uniquely positioned to anticipate opportunities and concerns, and proactively work with other business leaders to help seize and address them.
  • Too often, public relations leaders try to have “public relations conversations.” Leadership finds much greater value in the communicator who speaks the language of business and works to achieve the business objectives first.
  • Know and be part of what’s next. There always will be shifts in trends, influencers and media-consumption habits. It’s critical to stay on top and ahead of these.
  • Technology has advanced the PR role by providing access to an incredible amount of data and tools that improve how our messages are delivered and our core audiences receive them. But technology cannot replace solid communication skills.
  • Public relations campaigns go beyond “earned media” and cross paid, owned and shared media to “earn” influence.
  • PR pros need to become the experts on not only the drivers that are critical to achieving those goals, but also the barriers.

And, finally, my favorite:

  • The lines between public relations, digital and marketing are incredibly gray these days. A flexible, inquisitive person with a collaborative approach will embrace the ambiguity and turn this “issue” into an incredible opportunity for growth.

Remember that in October, PRSA Richmond concentrates on students. While reading through the advice offered here, please think about what advice you would give students. More importantly, please find ways to pass that advice along.


Jennifer Guild, APR
PRSA Richmond President