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In 2016 the most successful PR professionals won’t be PR professionals

Kevin Welman, MD of FleishmanHillard, shares insights on the direction of the public relations industry. During a recent Breakfast Presentation hosted by PRISA, Kevin Welman, MD of FleishmanHillard, spoke about the direction in which public relations is headed, and what practitioners need to do to remain relevant…

“I don’t like the term public relations, and I don’t refer to FleishmanHillard as a public relations firm,” he explains. “It is a communications firm that helps clients solve business challenges.”

In his view, PR practitioners need to understand their clients at a business level, and what they are trying to achieve.

“If you can have a conversation with the CEO and talk about business needs, wants and outcomes, and how communication is going to help him/her achieve those outcomes, you’re in a very different place,” he adds. “If you’re still starting the discussion with A.V.E values or return on investments in that form, you’re dead in the water – you’re probably going to be out of business in the next year or two…”

Secondly, he notes that there is a role for creativity, but it’s just not the primary role. Creative thinking should be geared to produce business outcomes, and not just be viewed as ‘creativity for creativity’s sake’.

“If you are working with a listed company, and you don’t have the share price on your monthly report that goes into an exco meeting, then there are problems,” he says. “If you can start to overlay [your communications strategies] with the stock price, and people can start to relay how communications is moving the stock price up, or managing it in a downward spiral, then your entry to the exco table is going to be very different.”

Welman says that there is a gap in the training of PR people, and highlights how different the industry is now compared to when he first began practicing (in a company of 15 people).

“My successor will not be the best PR person at FleishmanHillard,” he says. “I genuinely don’t think I’m the best PR person at FleishmanHillard – but I’m probably the best business person at FH…I understand how to present, how to have that business conversation, and how to procure business, etc…”

He says that at a more junior level, there are basic skills that are lacking, such as project management. As an account manager, for example, you need to manage client payments and basically be learning ‘the language of the MD’.

As the MD, he says he has far more conversations around business development and business challenges than he has around communication.

“My point of entry to most business people is about their business – what is the challenge, what aren’t you getting right, etc…and then to ask, how can communications help?”

Kevin

This article was originally written by Jessica Hubbard and published on | 20 January 2016 00:41 | Moneyweb.co.za