Tips for Getting to Know the Business of PR

How do communicators get to know the business of their clients or organisation?

This post is a response to a great guest post by Michael Shmarak of Sidney Maxwell PR on Mikinzie Stuart‘s blog PR Geek Speak (definitely recommended reading for fellow young PR and communication pros).

In the post, Michael discusses the bridge between the business of business and the business of PR, and the opportunity each communicator has to help bridge that gap.

That is, to learn and understand the business of your clients or organisation, and employ communication to  improve and positively impact that business.

As Michael Writes:

“When I worked at large agencies, it was required that my team knew what my clients did, made, sold,, and I pushed for them to learn as much about how things were done/made/sold.  Today, my team knows as much about the client’s operations as they do about its marketing function.

Why?  Because the more we know about how a client operates, the more of an opportunity there is for us to create better programming.” 

Having started my career as the sole (in-house) communicator (excluding the Marketing Manager and Coordinator) in a national media organisation, Michael’s words resonated with me greatly, and got me thinking about my own time learning the ropes and business of my employer.

It certainly was a steep learning curve – but one I consider myself pretty fortunate to have had.

So, adding to Michael’s post, here are a few of my own tips for getting to know the business of PR for your clients or company. While these come from my own experience on the client side, I hope that all can be adapted and utilised to help pros on the agency side also.

Connect in person

Obviously this one is easier if you work in-house – but the same applies for agency. When you are working across and with multiple business units to communicate both internally and externally, there is no substitute for face time. Make the effort to initiate contact and introductions with people across the business. Letting them know who you are what you do (or will be doing) will go a long way towards establishing strong ties, relationships and channels of information within the business.

Sit in on meetings

This is a great way to further develop relationships with heads of business units, and to get to know those individuals that drive and work within these departments. During the course of your time working with the organisation you may find yourself regularly working with these individuals. Understanding their projects, timelines and day-to-day business will only help build your knowledge of the organisation and allow you to proactively forward-plan.

Organise one-on-one meetings with business heads

Okay, so this one might be a little bit harder to coordinate. These individuals are usually super busy and pressed for time. However, they’re in a senior position because of their knowledge and business acumen, and one-on-one time to learn about them and their team is invaluable. Many of the meetings I had with business heads were over a coffee – giving each of us the time to ask questions and learn more about one another. Looking back, I have no doubt these advanced my knowledge of the business, its people and the wider industry ten times over.

Ask questions

This follows on from the last point, but at no point should you shy away from asking questions. Building your knowledge and understanding of the business will assist in establishing your own intellectual capital around the company and drive results for you and the organisation.

Read up on trade and industry news

This was brought up by Michael in his post, and I couldn’t agree more with him on this point. Whatever niche or sector of business your client or company is in, take the time to read up on news and any trade or B2B media in that area. Reading trade content was a daily routine throughout my time at the organisation – and I can’t tell you how much it helped in planning, reviewing and executing communication for the business.

Invite feedback

Remember – you may be the expert in the business of PR and communication, but it’s others that are experts in the business of their business – so take the time and be proactive in seeking feedback from these experienced and knowledgeable heads. This doesn’t have to wait until the quarterly performance review – each and every piece of communication is an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.

So, there you have it – a few of my tips to help you get to know the business of PR based on my own time as an in-house communicator.

Again, thanks to Michael and Mikinzie for sharing the post on PR Geek Speak and for prompting the above thoughts.

What do you think?

What strategies have you employed to get to know the business of PR?  Do you have any tips to share with fellow communicators? If you’re in the agency space, how do you adapt to learning the business of PR for multiple clients?

I’d love to hear about your experiences and thoughts.

Image credit: Patrick Hoesly, via Flickr CC 2.0


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