PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANTS’ CHAPTER OF PRISA (PRCC)
The Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) is the professional body, which represents the interests of public relations practitioners. The Public Relations Consultants' Chapter is a chapter of PRISA. At least one senior member of the consultancy must be an individual member of PRISA thereby the consultancy is expected to maintain standards that enhance the standing of the public relations profession.
Professional integrity implies, among others, observance of the PRISA Code of Ethics and Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations and Communication Management.
Public relations is either practised on a corporate or a consultancy basis. It is not unusual for an organisation to have an internal public relations practitioner or department and to retain a consultant or consultancy. For dynamic public relations, choose a professional public relations consultancy.
Appoint a member of the PRCC of PRISA.
- Wide range of expertise
- Top media connections
- Cost-effective public relations programmes
- Creativity and dynamic ideas
If a public relations consultant is being properly utilised the work involved will stretch across the organisation’s entire structure, from extremely sensitive policy issues, to corporate social arrangements.
A public relations consultant can provide a service including:
- Creating, maintain and improving an organisation’s corporate image.
- Playing a role within the marketing mix, specifically in the field of marketing promotions.
- Giving guidance in the area of social responsibility and setting up objects.
- Promoting effective internal communication within the company.
- Promoting effective external communication outside the company.
- Scientific forward planning for emergencies and crisis communication.
Whether or not your organisation employs public relations staff, the need may arise for you to appoint a consultancy either to undertake a once-off project or to assist you on an on-going basis.
Inadequate communication at the outset of the consultancy-client relationship may cause costly frustration. The golden rules are:
- The consultancy must fully understand, up front, exactly what the client requires.
- The client must know from the outset exactly what the consultancy can provide; unrealistic expectations could cost both parties dearly.
- There must be mutual agreement on such issues as fees, the persons involved in mutual liaison, and the duration of the contract and the measurement of achievement.
It is important for clients to know what to look for and what questions to ask.
- Are the consultants registered with PRISA?
- Will they give you the names of active and past clients? A complete active client list and how long they have worked with them. Also their past clients and why they have left. Ask for references.
- How old is the consultancy? Young or old does not necessarily mean good or bad, however find out about their experience. Does the consultancy, which you are considering, have experience of the areas in which you have public relations needs? Does the consultancy have the facilities, infra-structure, expertise and range of services you require?
- How big is the consultancy? Is it too big to give you senior level personal attention, or too small to have the resources for a demanding measurable programme.
- How do they bill? By the hour, job, project, retainer - and is it linked to measurable results? What are their billings and what proportion would your company represent.
- Who would work on your account? Will your business be handled by senior partners, or by junior account executives? Who is the account director and are the creative team permanent or freelancing. Permanent staff normally works better as a team.
- Ask about their technological capabilities. What is done in-house and what is out-sourced?
- Ask what experience they have in your particular market and particular disciplines. What information and insight can they bring to the table that you do not already have?
- What experience do they have outside of your field? Is it the same that everybody else is doing or fresh ideas and insights?
- Does the consultancy favour one particular medium or can they work effectively across all mediums. Do they have an integrated approach?
- Considering the fast changing socio-political environment: do you get the feeling the candidates are innovative and up to the task?
- How do well-informed people judge the consultancy?
A quick checklist to know whether you need a consultancy or if you need a change of consultancy.
- You have a tight deadline and your consultancy cannot help and their creative staff is overworked
- You have a consultancy but the bills have been unpredictable, they have gone over budget, and/or you are not getting the results you know you should get
- You suspect that you are not getting full value out of your public relations efforts and you need objective thinking. They are continuously re-inventing the wheel
- You feel they are not contributing to your business through innovative public relations ideas
- You do not see enough of top management. They have lost their professionalism and ability to understand the changes in your business. They have lost their problem solving ability, interest and enthusiasm. Generally their standards have dropped
- You are not convinced that what has been produced is doing justice to your product, your services and your company’s bottom line.
Here are some situations that tend to require the use of consultants in organisations. Use this checklist to determine if you have any of the same needs or problems:
- Do you need specialised expertise, talent or skill?
- Do you need an independent, unbiased, frank opinion?
- Do you need temporary technical assistance?
- Are you experiencing business cash flow problems?
- Do you need expertise in acquiring resources?
- Are you experiencing political and/or organisational problems?
- Do you need to respond to regulation or do you have problems with regulation?
- Do you have a sudden availability of funds and desire to use them with the help of a consultant?
- Do you need to save key personnel?
- Do you need help with training programmes?
If you have identified one or more of the above situations then it may be time to bring in a consultant.
- Define our objectives for the consultancy and your public relations and communication programmes in line with your business strategy.
- Listen to the consultancy and take notes during their presentation – see if you have learned anything new.
- Look at them – do you like the way they present themselves and their work?
- Look at their work – do you like the work you are looking at?
- Read their work – you are looking for a consultancy that have the ability to give you a solid strategy and the ability to create and communication ideas that will sell your products and services.
- Ask questions – this is an interview.
- What do you regard as our principle need or problem?
- What can you offer us that other consultants we have interviewed / your competitors have not been able to provide?
- How will we measure or evaluate your success in meeting our needs / solving our problems?
- Are you willing to work on a performance basis – that is, to be compensated on the basis of the results you produce?
- What related experience have you had in working with organisations similar to ours or with other organisations in this industry or field?
- What related experience have you had in working with needs and problems similar to ours?
- Who may we contact as a reference about the services you provide?
There is no substitute for a good referral. Ask your colleagues in the business. Call associations you belong to or check industry magazines and newsletters and ask for a referral list. Explain what you are looking for. Give a brief idea of the kind of project or what your requirements are. That way, your informant can give you a more relevant referral. When you have chosen your team of specialists – treat them well and be loyal. Because loyal providers – like loyal employees – create loyal customers.
- Do public relations programmes ever fail?
- Sometimes they do, because of one or more of these shortcomings:
- When the public relations programme ignores the fundamental aim of building mutual understanding.
- When public relations staff or consultants, far removed from the top echelon of management, have to devise a strategy based on second hand information.
- When the organisation’s public relations staff or consultancy are simply not up to the job.
- When top management adapts an essentially sound public relations strategy to its own preferences and style, and in the process distorts the strategy, dilutes its potential impact, and changes the communication content to the extent that the message is lost on the public for whom it was intended.
PRISA, mindful of the skepticism of business leaders who may have been victims of ineffective public relations, has developed over a number of years a sophisticated yet practical professional registration system to help business management identify and employ appropriate public relations staff or consultants.
- By viewing an organisation’s communication issues and goals as part of its overall business plan.
- By including public relations executives and/or consultants in an organisation’s decision making team.
- By assertive management of public relations activities to ensure the success of the business plan.