My experience spans crisis communications and protecting reputations for a number of well-known names as well as long-term reputation and brand-building, and producing engaging day-to-day campaigns and communications activities.
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Bridget Aherne > Latest News  > Professional comms costs

Professional comms costs

Public relations, communications and associated functions are professional services that should be paid for exactly in the way legal and accountancy services are paid for.

The prompt to rant about this is a number of examples I’ve seen where organisations have expected professional communications support without paying a fair price for it.

Maybe we need to restate that public relations is a management function and much more than the outputs such web content or tweets or press releases?

The majority of work is unseen – it’s the inputs such as horizon-scanning, developing credible insights from a range of sources and advising businesses on the decisions they should make, taking all that stakeholder insight into account.

Insights are not plucked out of the air or based on the personal whims of practitioners. They are skills and expertise developed through a combination of training, development and time served on the job.

Any message communicated about a business decision tells the story of what you prioritised, why that was most important and why you might not have done something else. Add to that your tactic and channel of choice to share your messages and many more skills start being added in.

There’s then the legal and ethical considerations of tactics and channels – copyright, contempt of court, libel and data protection regulations always apply to activities and are non-negotiables. As a CIPR member, I sign up to their code of conduct so, in addition to regular media law refreshers, I’m also guided by this.

That’s a lot of work, right? I accept we’ve not been good at our own PR in the past and we’ve often made it sound easy because our job is to simplify complex issues for audiences but please don’t mistake that for our work being easy to do or just common sense.

I’m fortunate I’m in a role where I’m valued and the importance of communications as a strategic function, which helps the business operate, as well as a process that keeps the organisation safe and trusted is recognised.

The examples that annoyed me on behalf of others included senior managers moaning about the cost of communications services, requesting work late assuming our processes can be rushed and asking independent practitioners to create campaign plans as part of a pitching process (hint: that’s just doing the job and freelancers need paying to put food on the table).

The most disappointing example I’ve seen is that of a professional photography role being offered as a voluntary opportunity for an organisation that needs imagery as an essential service to share vital information with its publics.

If you’re a business leader reading this and want a fair day’s work from someone providing a communications service, please recognise the value of that and expect to pay a fair price.

Bridget Aherne

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