Be nimble or lose out in business
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2017 - 4:00pm

The Philippines celebrates public relations month this September. This is by virtue of Proclamation No. 1357 signed on Aug. 13, 2007 by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. As such, the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) is tasked to hold a public relations congress every September of every year, with PR practitioners from the public and private sectors in attendance. And one of the best ways to celebrate the month-long occasion is to attend “The Boardroom,” the National PR Congress happening from Sept. 28 to 29 at the Bonifacio Room of Shangri-La at the Fort.

Indeed, the PR profession and industry have evolved into a major contributor to national development and the socio-economic well being of the country.  Thus, it is the avowed commitment of PR practitioners to underscore the substantial impact that the PR profession brings to bear on society, and to highlight the stringent qualifications and responsibilities that this specialized field of endeavor demands of its practitioner.

To perform smarter PR communications today, you have to be agile and on the ball with a world on fast-forward. Being agile is being nimble or graceful. It is your body’s ability to change the its position efficiently, which requires a combination of isolated movement skills like balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance.

In an organizational context, agility is the ability of the company to create value and continuously and consistently charm the customer, while promoting and responding to changes in its environment. Agility requires the alignment of employees to a common vision to achieve key differentiators against competitors. And, in today’s world of complexity and competition, the challenge is not only to deliver value early but also, for the most part, to make people happy.

 In today’s peremptory ascent to the digital economy, agility is something everybody and every organization must be equipped with, believing that every single part of your life is now being shaped or accelerated by digital communication. From Viber messages with friends and family, to the continually growing social media platforms, and with no thanks to the destruction of job borderlines, you are networking with increased velocity and regularity than ever before.

In the book Agile PR: Expert Messaging in a Hyper-Connected, Always-On World by Marian Salzman, you go through a simulated agility boot camp. You’re given a quick course in the art and sport of answering to everything that confronts you, from a witty tweet to a malicious Facebook post to an intriguing Instagram image or an issue gone viral. The sensible insights, advice and takeaways served up are as applicable to iconic communication planners as they are to people just starting to build their own communication careers. Here are key takeaways from Salzman’s must-read tome:

• The PR communication industry is constantly evolving and brands must be agile to keep up with competition. You need to treat your work-life balance like an extended graduate education. Today, it’s about knowing which measures matter most in terms of key performance indicator (KPI) and return on investment (ROI). You must be able to combine your love of words with a love of numbers. Maybe it’s proof of that career adage about finding something you love.   And, as you find that love, the fundamental rules of transparency, accuracy and timeliness are constants.

• PR messages must be expertly crafted to fly in a hyper-connected, always-on world.  To do so requires a mastery of your brand narrative, extreme knowledge on how to create a compelling story, and how you network it.

• The keys to maintaining a positive brand reputation remain the same. Do your homework, know the truth, monitor the moment, understand the key influences, use influence smartly and fairly, and never disconnect. It sounds exhausting — and it is. Or think of it as living agile for work — it’s about knowing the problem, identifying and constantly modifying the solution, staying in the game at all times. Being at it 24/7 and 365 days, and using all the tools and tactics that have emerged to make us faster, slicker, and more thorough are the norms now. And know how to apologize, make corrections and implement revisions. Reputation management is a demanding activity. You constantly revise and tweak, whether it’s for a person, product or issue.

• The way you do PR communication has been altered by digital.  It means your test for skills in publicity, promotion and influencing people is turbocharged with constant connectivity and the endless “trialogue” of the story: the comments and the comments on the comments.  Another challenge — energizing and exciting but also scary — is that you can’t control your environment; a story keeps being revised with individual inputs, some true, some fake, some smart, some silly, some witty, and some even dangerous. In this day and age, reputation management becomes about brand and idea stewardship versus command and control. Today, the story never sleeps. That’s why you need to master and muster agile influence. Know where you want to drive a story, and utilize all the smart stuff available to manage that influence.

• Familiarize, Engage, Produce, Amplify, and Measure (FEPAM). These are the key components of successful strategic communications today. And constant improvement is necessary, because you are measuring to make it better not just for the sake of KPIs or ROIs. It is increasingly important to strategically utilize your basic team: paid, owned, and earned media. You want each one to enhance the other, and “amplify” is what makes “familiarize” and “engage” sing collaboratively.

• Craft the news, be the news, know the news. These are the secrets for media relations success. It all sounds obvious, and yet the big opportunity is to think like a news owner and write like a Pulitzer Prize winner and curate visuals remembering the adage “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” In today’s world, it is also about knowing how to craft the perfect email headline or 140-character pitch for text messaging and Twitter.

• Creating just the right hashtag is critical. Hashtags are now ubiquitous and, honestly, de rigueur for brand social conversations. The good ones are #shortandsweet, #nocompetition, #easyreader, and #memorable. Hashtags are all about inspiring real and positive exchanges. Plan them ahead, play around with them and seize your brand’s moment.

Embracing agility in public relations doesn’t have to mean throwing out tried-and-true tactics. It’s a process of keeping mainstream ways with agile modes to better connect with those around you, changing the way you look at things as you represent and express who you are.

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