Jane Dvorak highlights how PR leaders build invaluable bridges in business
By Heather Vana
There’s one question that can make even the most seasoned PR professional feel jittery: “Why do businesses need PR people?”
Jane Dvorak, PRSA national chair, set out to address this head on during her welcome keynote at the 2017 PRSA Western Region Conference in Riverside, Calif. In her view, PR professionals are some of the most effective leaders in the business world.
“We are the connectors and bridge-builders,” Dvorak said. “We’re leaders, analysts and strategists who are in touch with the bigger business plan and ensure the rest of the organization is, too. We are leaders because we can bring people together. That makes us invaluable.”
Dvorak offered three pieces of practical advice to help business leaders understand the contributions PR professionals make as leaders, analysts and strategists.
Put leadership first
Many PR professionals don’t position themselves as leaders above all else—and this is a missed opportunity. “In business, leaders are invaluable but commodities are expendable,” Dvorak said.
Due to the nature of their work, PR professionals are more conative than most. That is, they have the will and drive to make things happen. They are also inherently effective information gatherers, which helps them prioritize, provide counsel and aid business decision-making. By articulating the value of these skills in developing strong leadership we can differentiate the PR function in the eyes of business leaders, according to Dvorak.
Stop counting and start analyzing
In the age of big data, PR professionals can also differentiate themselves by relying on their analytical skills. Our marketing peers sometimes one-up us here, Dvorak noted.
“As much as we have access to numbers, we’re measuring less and less,” Dvorak said. “Measurement is not just for counting. It’s for making strategic decisions.”
Instead of just providing metrics, such as the number of likes, shares, or impressions, aim to provide information that drives decision-making, for example: decide to replicate the effort, do it over again, or simply let it go. “Focus on what that result means for your business,” Dvorak explained.
Stay strategic to make your impact last
Because of their ability to connect data to strategic objectives and master cross-functional collaboration, PR professionals shine as business strategists.
“PR is the dynamic power point of a business,” Dvorak said. “We bring sales, marketing and IT together.” Often, business partners provide the numbers while PR departments help connect data to strategy. “Critical thinking is where impact happens,” she remarked.
As leaders, analysts and strategists, PR professionals have an innate ability to guide a company to a better place than it was before they came on board—and they do it all in good humor. “Laughter is critical to your job as a leader,” Dvorak noted. “When we laugh, we learn and we remember. It also spurs creativity and problem-solving.”
PR professionals don’t just help other leaders think more critically. They help their colleagues enjoy each others’ company, and good humor, along the way.