Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The Public Relations Institute of South Africa (Prisa) celebrated its 60th anniversary conference earlier this month. An auspicious occasion, but more importantly, a time to reflect on innovation, growth and relevance in both the public relations profession and the organisation.

Public relations and communication have increasingly become a strategic business discipline within the context of overall management of reputation and brand and stakeholder engagement.

As recent events have illustrated, the handling of public relations is important for the mitigation of risk, and while the levels of integration and innovation that have been achieved are impressive, there is still considerable room for growth.

Though organisations benefit from an integrated reputation management approach, their readiness for change is not to be taken for granted. Many organisations still struggle at an executive level to see the value communication brings to the c-suite, and as a profession, public relations still has a great deal of work ahead in this regard.

We cannot wait for others to do it for us. True, there have been too many examples of late that have set the profession back, particularly in terms of how crises have been handled, which play into the parochial view of what the profession is.  We have to curb this.

The time is right to elevate the role of strategic communication in business and ensure it receives the acknowledgment it deserves as an enabler and driver of reputation and business growth.

We need to relook at how we value public relations. Output-based measurements are no longer enough, and do not provide evidence of value creation. While creativity and the landing of a press release are important cornerstones of our profession, without leadership support, sound measurement and a lot of business acumen we will never be more than an expense on a business’s balance sheet.

To address this, we need to think about developing guidance about models for research, engage best practice in global communication consultation, and evaluate our goals at a business outcome level.

Globally, we are seeing a shift in the role of strategic communication and reputation management in business. Only the most agile, forward-thinking and skilled among us will survive.  Those with an appetite for change – real, fast change – will thrive.

A strong undertone in many of the discussions at, and surrounding, this year’s Prisa conference was about transformation, inclusion and the relevance of professional bodies. 

Change is not easy. But nothing worthwhile is easy.  Those of us who love and are committed to this profession are in it for the long run. 

We invite you to be part of the future.

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