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Three musts for PR Managers (and those who aspire to be)

11 Aug 2014

Forget management gobbledygook – PR managers must focus on three things: control, competence and clarity.

Don’t read this unless you manage a PR team or aspire to manage one.

Top communicators in any organisation have a tough job and it’s often lonely sitting astride the PR pinnacle.

Which is why you need to be surrounded by a good communications team, one that can get results, win respect and boost your profile while they build their careers. A good team lies at the heart of good PR because they’re the ones who provide the daily momentum so necessary for good communications.

Managing PRs

Managing a group of PR professionals can be challenging.

Mostly PRs are a bright-eyed, creative bunch intent on converting challenges into achievements. Regrettably many of the organisations they work for, are action-adverse when it comes to communications. Red lights blink more often than green ones when it comes to taking action because moving forward can mean mistakes. Senior leaders in these organisations focus on reducing errors rather than striving for something great.

Communications don’t fare well in these environments and PR people do even worse.

The largest communications team I led was 40 professionals spread throughout Australia. And, being part of 42 campaigns in recent years, has given me a front row seat to watch how PR managers direct their teams. Some are very good and positively inspirational. A few really struggle. And in the middle are the majority who do a solid job but could improve their teams by paying closer attention to the three essentials for effective PR management – control, competence and clarity.

Let’s deal with control first, and take up the other two essentials in subsequent posts.

PR DMZ

PR managers are often caught in the DMZ between management and staff. They are the buffer between top floor executives who insist on centralising process, and staff on the PR shop floor who yearn for creative freedom. Managing upwards and inspiring downwards is often difficult and awkward. But from what I witness the best way to get the results you expect and grant the freedom your staff so cherish, is to loosen control.

Responsibility is a tonic

Most PR professionals respond to positive challenges. It’s in their DNA. You can turn this natural inclination to organisational advantage.  Make your team members responsible for specific outcomes and then stand back and give them to give them scope to achieve those results. Communicators enjoy freedom of action and rarely create anything great while the boss frowns over their shoulder.

Empower creativity

Empower your staff to be creative. Start by describing the end in mind and let people see the journey ahead.  Set clear boundaries without building fences and resist the natural urge to always provide the solution. In the long run collective creativity always outperforms acts of individual brilliance – even if they are your own.

Stroll the floor

Continually talk to your people because nothing is more soul sapping than having your plans squashed at the very end.  Managers who chat to staff find they keep them on track, pick up and promote newborn ideas quickly and head off any ill-considered approaches before they gain traction.

Walk around early and often to learn the good, bad and ugly of what’s going in your environment.  The simple act of being out, about and visible will ensure your decisions remain firmly rooted in reality and are not captured by your own blind spots or the prejudices of others.

Payoff

Relaxing control and listening to others can be difficult, perhaps even frightening. But it can be done, and from what I have seen, that’s how the best PR managers already operate. Shifting from control to empowerment moves you from being one managing many to orchestrating a PR team of individuals energetic, emotionally engaged and who think ahead about what needs to be done and how to do it right.

In following posts let’s explore how competence and clarity can build great PR teams.

Recommended reading:  Turn the Ship Around by David Marquet

– By Bob Crawshaw, IABC Canberra Board Member

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