Our [PR] Solstice…Things Change

I saw a photo on Facebook this morning that threw my normal “la-la-la” approach to things into a total tailspin. It wasn’t a photo of the bombings and human devastation that seem to dominate the news of late. And it wasn’t a cute puppy or baby or baby puppy or whatever.

No. It was a photo of a fountain in Hampton, Virginia, where we used to live, coated in a thick layer of ice with icicles hanging from the edges of the bowl. I don’t recall it ever being that cold!!

I’ve been on a way-too-long winter break from my classes at Curry College, and I’ve spent way too much time thinking this time. Lot of personal and professional stuff going on, and I’d really rather not deal with most of it. Then my thoughts veered off onto the concept of “winter solstice,” and it got weird after that…winding up thinking about the evolution of public relations as a core business function.

Things Change, Like It or Not

“Solstice,” very simply, is a “time of change,” and, like it or not, things do change.

I participated in a lively Twitter chat recently discussing public relations research, monitoring, and measurement, and it became very clear very fast that the entire spectrum of program planning and implementation has changed significantly.

No longer can we, as public relations counselors, expect our client or employer to accept a blithe “We got ‘good ink’” as documentation of a successful PR campaign. To the contrary, we are (or should be) expected to tie the results of our efforts directly to the organization’s bottom line with tangible examples.

I try to drive this fact home in every one of my PR classes at Curry to prepare my students for their own entry into the “real world.”

I don’t want them wandering out of college thinking “All I have to do is write and send out news releases for a living.” Instead, I want them asking me…or a future boss… “How do you measure success, and how can I help you accomplish it?”

What’s Your ROI

This is somewhat different from how I started out in this business. My early jobs were pretty much to generate as much publicity as possible…but there were no metrics tied to the task…just “get the releases out.”

Today’s economy-driven business world demands ROI…a return on one’s investment of time, of energy, of money.

And, whether it be for-profit or non-profit, there always is a raison d’etre. Why do we exist? Or, as I asked in a senior staff meeting years ago, “What is the one thing that, if we don’t have it, we are dead in the water?”

The variety of responses I got to that seemingly simple question prompted a redefinition of our mission statement, an organizational restructure, and a refocusing of our communication efforts…and led to a marked improvement in our bottom line.

Public relations should be an integral element in any organization’s planning, and we, as public relations counsel, must recognize, accept, and respond to the reality of the “solstice.”

Image Source: Unsplash