REPUTATION

In brand management, PR is everything

It can no longer be confined to traditional media relations.

In Summary
  • One of the reasons why some organisations collapsed is because they engaged in brand ‘window dressing’ rather than strategic branding.
  • The biggest challenge in PR is the way it is currently positioned in organisations.
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Warren Buffett’s well-known quote about reputation, “Twenty years to build, five minutes to ruin,” aptly describes what organisations face daily today.

In Kenya, there are several cases of companies that have become common with Kenyans, only to suddenly fade. While a number of reasons have been advanced for the woes facing these companies, they are mostly underpinned by poor public relations (PR) management. 

Branding for organisations is not only important but a critical PR function. Indeed, one of the reasons why some organisations collapsed is because they engaged in brand ‘window dressing’ rather than strategic branding, which increases organisations' value and ensures longevity.

 

PR can no longer be confined to traditional media relations but as the unit that knows how to manage content, how to circumnavigate the new media, and how to guard the most valuable asset any organisation has—its reputation. Undeniably, when it comes to brand management, PR is everything.

Certainly, now more than ever, organisations are appreciating that to achieve objectives and goals they must deploy PR to create, manage and refresh their brands. In Kenya however, most organisations are still grappling to understand what branding entails and how it relates to PR management.

This is because the evolution and growth of PR industry in Kenya has been very slow. However, a critical analysis reveals that many organisations are gradually appreciating the need for PR. To manage PR, organisations either employ PR practitioners or outsource by hiring PR consultants to handle their PR needs.

However, the industry continues to endure several challenges such as poor recognition by organisation's top leadership that PR is a management function. The increase of quacks posing as PR practitioners, unfair competition, lack of adequate education for the practitioners, lack of proper laws and structures to govern the profession are just but a few examples of what the industry is facing.

for organisations to earn maximum benefits from public relations, PR managers should be accorded executive privilege like engineering, human resource, marketing and so on, of being in top management where they can influence decisions.

The future of proactive PR lies in the industry's capacity to counter these challenges for the benefit of the industry. Otherwise all there will be is the same old reactive PR that achieve no meaningful results.

As a keen observer and PR practitioner in Kenya, the biggest challenge in PR is the way it is currently positioned in organisations. There is also some level of misunderstanding of what PR entails and its role in organisational management.

One of the identity challenges facing public relations is how it defines its relationship with marketing. In Kenya, several organisations position PR as sub-department of marketing and/or administration, among others.

 
 

As a matter of fact, many PR practitioners are regarded as operators rather than managers in planning and decision-making levels. For example, in most organisation PR managers do not report directly to the CEO. This is a huge gap that leads to serious PR mismanagement.

Many of them report to managers such as general managers, strategy, corporate affairs director or marketing director, and so on, who have no understanding of what PR entails. This indicates that there is dire need for PR to gain recognition and respect from top management in organisations.

Accordingly, for organisations to earn maximum benefits from public relations, PR managers should be accorded executive privilege like engineering, human resource, marketing and so on, of being in top management where they can influence decisions.

Further, in most organisations, most PR managers lack the necessary training/skills in PR and this usually affects their performance and injures the overall performance of the organisation. In the long run, it ends up costing the organisation needless expenses because in many cases such managers will outsource because they must maintain an image of "knowing PR".

Additionally, it is evident that the majority of organisations in Kenya do not appreciate nor completely understand the importance of public relations. Indeed, the PR practice in Kenya today is facing competition from other professions. PR is getting competition from the so-called management consultants, quack event managers, who are eager to portray PR practitioners as operators.

Further, the PR units are faced with inadequate budgetary allocation owed to the fact that top management undermines the potential and importance of the department in comparison to others. Compounding the challenges above is the intrusion by other professionals thus inhibiting the growth of PR practice. Placing non-PR professionals in top management positions in public relations affects the performance of organisations in terms of meeting their objectives.

Finally, it is important for organisations to understand PR as a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to create and sustain shared understanding between an organisation and its publics. One of the reasons why most organisations fail to realise their objectives is the fact that PR is never given much consideration, yet it is the heartbeat of every strategy within an organisation.

Indeed, in most organisations PR is not deliberate but more of an inadvertent process. This is largely driven by a misconception that PR is easy, yet this is where most organisation fail, making it hard to achieve their goals.

Communication specialist and certified public relations analyst