I got my regular newsletter from the CIPR last week and was pleased to see that their timing was impeccable. They had published a very interesting article looking at Donald Trump’s election campaign on the same day the results were announced.
One of their other articles caught my attention too. This was a piece by Dan Slee which focused on the differences between PR and journalism. It highlighted15 ways PR is different to journalism and indeed is more challenging in a lot of ways as a profession. I agree with all the points raised and it’s a great article. In my experience people always underestimate the range of skills you need to be an effective B2B PR – perhaps those that are good at it make it look too easy! But I would also like to suggest an additional point, which extends some of the others that Dan has rightly made.
One of the peculiarities of a PR/comms role vs journalism is for the former to have to take what’s called a ‘boundary spanning’ role, whereby you have to sit on an invisible fence and simultaneously represent the interests of multiple stakeholders. People always say ‘Never sit on the fence’ but if you’re in B2B PR you have to!
In internal comms it might be the wishes of senior leadership vs employees. In an external media relations role, it might be the unrealistic expectations of the leadership team vs those media contacts you have spent many years cultivating. You know that the client’s grandiose ideas for a story or launch won’t fly and you have to be able to reflect on what the journalists’ needs are and translate that into a convincing and appealing proposition for the client or company you are working for. There may be big egos at stake or simply unrealistic expectations of what’s achievable and you need to be able to represent both sides to bring a conclusion that’s of benefit to both sides.
Interestingly, the idea of working inside an organisation and having to be outwardly focused to simultaneously represent their mutual interests is something I had always been subconsciously aware of as a practitioner for many years. However it first became tangible as a concept with a name when I was researching for my role as a guest lecturer at the LSE with a remit to introduce PR theory to MSc students.
When you are as passionate about what you do as many CEOs are, it’s easy to think it’s automatically of interest to an external audience. The reality is often very different. Getting this balance right can be tricky to achieve and requires a deep understanding of the audiences plus very good communication skills – or diplomacy as Dan suggests.
Find out more about my background as an independent B2B PR consultant.