One of my favourite business books of all time is called The E Myth Revisited – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Michael E. Gerber, Harper Business on Amazon). To any small business owner, Gerber’s lessons are confronting – and important to learn.
In his book, Gerber discusses the struggle many face on a daily basis: the technician versus the entrepreneur. Getting the work done versus growing the business. Output versus strategy.
Gerber’s messages ring true for PR practitioners too.
Gerber tells us that many ‘mature’ businesses survive because they know the path ahead: ‘A mature business knows how it got to be where it is, and what it must do to get where it wants to go’ (p. 68).
As PR professionals, we need to be ‘mature’ too. We must understand the bigger picture vision of our client’s company, to fully appreciate the role we play. All too often our role becomes focused on getting the job done, rather than how it fits into the future of the organisation that employs us.
It’s easy to become bogged down in technicalities, the never-ending ‘to do’ list. But to make a meaningful contribution to any organisation, we need to share the over-arching entrepreneurial vision right from day one.
Based on Gerber’s insights, here are five key strategic questions PR professionals should ask to ensure their role is truly effective:
- Seek first to understand the business, and the entrepreneurial vision behind it. Ask the question, ‘how does this business work?’ rather than: ‘what work has to be done?’
- Understand PR’s role in the financial make-up of an organisation. Ask the question, ‘how will PR efforts make a difference to the financial future of this organisation? Are we generating results to drive income, or profits?’
- Understand where the company is going, the long term vision. Ask the question: ‘Is the future well-defined? How will PR efforts help the company’s end goal?
- View the company in its entirety. Ask the question, ‘do I understand the entire business, or just parts of the business?’
- Examine your own perspective. Ask the question, ‘How do we see the PR role? A valued element of an exciting road ahead? Are our efforts making an important contribution to the organisation’s future?’ If you’re not sure, then it’s probably time to go back to question one.
Simple questions, but often overlooked when embarking on a new PR project. Focusing on the tasks ahead is often an easier first step than understanding PR’s piece in the strategic puzzle. By asking these five questions, PR practitioners can ensure their role is seen for its true value, and the vital role it plays in the future of any successful organisation.
What questions do you feel are important to ask when embarking with a new client, or project? Clients, what questions do you feel are important to be asked?