I came to Singapore in 2007 at a time when it was being hailed everywhere as the world’s most globalised nation. Up in clouds about my prospects as a Public Relations professional working in the regional business hub, I fantasized groupthinks with senior management, right at the table where important company decisions are made.
I really knew my conjectures were off-base the day I was finally appointed Public Relations Senior Executive of a local enterprise and was told by my friendly HR to “please craft your own job description.”
That rather odd start turned out to be a splendid opportunity to pitch the merits of Public Relations and how it can be transformational for a company’s growth and profitability.
Many times in my career, I have had to carve my own path to the C-Suite in order to present a clear, crisp perspective of what public relations is and why it deserves a place in management thinking alongside operations, marketing and finance.
PR Landscape in the City State
Compared to its western counterparts, public relations appears to be undervalued among many Singapore companies as the focus on revenue makes it more expedient to emphasize marketing and advertising.
When new media technology shook things up in the mid 2000, all sorts of new marketing tools arrived on the regional scene which put public relations farther away from being viewed as a surpassing management strategy.
Rather, it was considered as just one of the whole she-bang in a marketer’s arsenal, and worse, the least understood of them all.
Until recently, it was not uncommon to find fragmented thinking across the board holds that branding -- far removed from PR strategy, or Marcom -- with its short, sharp and finite revenue goals, were enough to determine the company’s reputational and therefore, business success.
Re-Imagining PR is the Future
Singapore businesses continue to modernize and hold their own with those of the best in the world. As the global market becomes increasingly complex, many business leaders are realizing how they can profit greatly from understanding the workings of Public Relations as a top management strategy.
For a company resolved to transform its operations in 2014 and beyond, here are four points to reflect on:
1. Place at the table. Public relations counsel deserves a place on the Singapore top management table, not on matters of ads and promotion narrowly, but in the entire business process that includes decisions on pricing, supply chain, branding and marketing.
Best practices of remarkable global companies demonstrates how public relations helped fashion operating strategies, grow brands, transform the supply chain, propel innovation, motivate employees and drive commercial success.
2. Integrated philosophy. Public Relations should be integrated into the operating philosophy of every modern Singapore company and understood as part of the broad science of human relations.
It is not be approached as ersatz marketing tool but rather, an enduring philosophy that must permeate the entire organisation, from the chairman of the board, the CEO, the COO, and all other top executives down to the man on the warehouse.
3. Democratized media. Far from losing edge, a public relations strategy is critical given the explosion of consumer engagement through new and social media. The collapse of reputation and trust in major institutions and the evolving needs and concerns of senior management makes it critical to decide core communication approaches at all levels and across various platforms.
A good communication strategy serves to guide storytelling across a vast ocean of information in order to drive company message across all of the different types of media.
4. The Strategist in the Middle. Apart from the common practice of hiring a PR agency at intervals, a globalising company must seek out and bring on board a broadly-skilled public relations expert who will serve as the communication strategist in the middle of the policy-communication continuum.
This strategic leader must have one foot on corporate policymaking and another in creative execution. To do the job excellently, the PR in-charge must have consummate communication skills and keen intellect to understand economics, engineering, finance, foreign language, government and statistics.
Elevating public relations as full partner in the C-suite does have its broad remit. It harmonises the many intricate relationships in and outside of the organization to help shape sound business ethics, maintain high standards of operation, create a deep-rooted sense of desire for the public good and animates customer engagement.
That is how public relations edifies the humble dotted line it makes to company revenue, and become a force in moving the entire organization from good to great.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Anne Constantino has over ten years of experience crafting communication and battle-tested campaigns for public and private sector in the Philippines and Singapore. In 2012, she established Precision Strategies Asia, with her unique knowledge base in designing and implementing communication strategies, message development, branding, crisis management, and coalition building to propel the growth of corporations, political campaigns, government services, and non-profit organisations.