The Nature of Competitor Analysis for PR Agency Professionals Today
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Given the business context of recent years, public relations has played an essential role in marketing development, both at the strategic level of communication and branding and integrated marketing.
This has led to a boom in which there are currently many alternatives to satisfy the need for this service, which has resulted in clients quickly changing their agencies. Therefore, PR agencies that do not have a clear and differentiating strategy to retain their clients neither create nor sustain a solid competitive position.
Currently, public relations management (PRM) in communications strategies has become an element that cannot be missing in these strategies. With proper management, they can make companies, brands, organizations, or individuals achieve a significant impact and build a favorable reputation for them that, over time, will translate into the trust of their audiences, thus strengthening valuable relationships that will last over time and create customer and audience loyalty.
Currently, the PR specialist is responsible, among other things, for carrying out consultancies to establish the most appropriate way of communicating with internal or external audiences, in addition to conducting research that identifies attitudes of target audiences to develop activities of interest, relationships with key audiences and marketing actions.
Today, many brands make use of PR. There are even those who claim that they are the secret of their success because they are considered the best way to penetrate the consumer's mind. They communicate a brand’s values and promote a more human image that enables an intrinsic connection between the user and the brand.
Nowadays, it has been understood that more than selling a product or service, it is essential for brands to gain the trust and credibility of their target market. This is because stakeholders have become more demanding when it comes to acquiring (or not acquiring) a good or service.
Competencies: A Conceptual Approach
A famous Chinese proverb states, "Nothing is permanent, except change," particularly illustrative for this study. Since being immersed in constant challenges, career profiles must be adjusted from time to time to the new labor requirements field demands from future professionals.
The same is true of competencies, understood as a set of knowledge integrated in professional practice and acquired through an individual's university education in such a way that they can solve specific problems in their profession.
The different typologies allow us to visualize two crucial aspects: First, both generic and essential competencies have the same relevance as the disciplinary competencies specific to a profession. And second, as already mentioned, competencies include knowledge, disciplinary skills, attitudes and values.
Unlike the others, professional competencies in agencies have become the central axis of higher education and postgraduate programs due to the interest in having their public relations graduates meet the requirements demanded by the work environment, mainly in how to establish a link between knowledge and praxis.
The Field of Strategic Communication and Public Relations
The work of these disciplines is circumscribed in organizations of all types to facilitate the construction of ties and relationships through the exchange of information, meanings, and perceptions between the entity and its public. The ultimate goal is to strengthen its identity and corporate culture in such a way that they provide a sense of belonging, contribute to a positive image, and have differentiating elements that achieve loyalty. Last but not least, they prepare the corporation for the imminent changes of the dynamic world and future crises.
The rapid development and advancement of new technologies directly influence communication in organizations, which leads them to implement tools for the design and planning of effective messages that contribute to the achievement of their objectives, based on interactions with the environment and stakeholder links. It is for this reason that communications professionals need to design strategies that enable a team to anticipate the unknown and act in a relevant manner. This is how strategic communication shows its meaning and value, and the entity prepares itself for future scenarios with a better position that reduces uncertainty.
Strategic Professionals, Holistic Thinking
The actions carried out by a PR officer must constantly respond to a global business strategy, which is linked to the mission, vision, and values of the organization. No action should be unconnected or improvised. Each step must be measured and planned. It is up to the communicator to analyze the possible scenarios and the consequences (desired or undesired) of the actions taken.
This is why the business plan and the communication plan go hand in hand. The first step is to know the public, the environment, and the competition; the next step is to link the business and commercial goals with the communication strategy.
A strategy is a set of actions planned systematically and carried out to achieve a specific goal or mission. However, it should not be seen as an extended static plan of action, but rather one that is flexible and constantly changing.
Communication strategies should target both internal and external audiences; the expectations of both companies and employees should be aligned. Attracting and retaining the best talent in the market serves to maintain a competitive advantage. The role of internal audiences has become - more than ever - primordial; everyone must know the strategy and understand what they must do in their respective jobs to support and strengthen it. In most cases, poor execution, not a bad design, is the cause of failure.
For these reasons, the first spokespersons of the agency are the employees. When they are convinced of a goal and know how to reach it, their actions, job satisfaction and conviction will maximize collaborative relationships.
In the universe that represents the business organization, the PR officer is the element that brings the different levels of the company and its community together. The communicator works transversally between senior management and the various departments of the company, and closely with the needs and external realities of the community that can be transformed into opportunities for the organization. This integral view is called holistic.
The organization can no longer function with disintegrated information. This is where the expertise of the public relations officer must combine data and information with the ability to add functionality and value to the community, holistically managing all the information that represents the agency, its processes, and the market in which it participates.
The Press Release and its Symbolic Power
Public relations agencies have acquired a culturally relevant status because of their growth, their expansion, and the number of companies they advise. Additionally, due to their position within the flow of information that is published or aired. Thus, they are not just hinges or messengers, but constitute a symbolically violent form of cultural intermediation, designed, ultimately, to generate symbolic power for interest groups, focused on the companies for which they work, to increase and consolidate their positions of power.
In the context of high competition for market share, differentiating themselves from competitors allows companies to add symbolic value to attributes, attitudes, or practices (opinions regarding specific public policies, forms of consumption, or business models) that reinforce their position and weaken that of other actors.
Therefore, to the extent that it is not only worth more to make the best product or offer a good service, companies have been forced to invest in public relations to deploy and strengthen their economic capital through communication strategies that compensate for their intrinsic lack of cultural capital and the public's lack of interest in their affairs.
The growth of public relations is the flip side of the dramatic decline in resources devoted to news production. As a result, the news is becoming less and less popular for many readers, viewers, and advertisers, while the attraction for entertainment is increasing. This process parallels the sharpening of competition among the media, increasing government deregulation of the industry, and introducing free-market logic into news services.
Public Relations Today
Nowadays, public relations has become a fundamental management tool in the daily life of organizations. Through its implementation, a company can organize the necessary actions to optimize relations with its different audiences and structure, project, and institutional image.
Organizations may, at some point in their existence, have to face risky situations, such as crises, where they will have to act quickly and appropriately to solve them when their image and reputation are at stake. Therefore, the company will have to develop an action plan to face it and come out as victorious as possible. For this, it will require the work and experience of specialists in public relations to advise it and design a plan tailored to the events.
Communication in agencies can be difficult, but it will be even more complex in crises because they generate a high degree of uncertainty. In these circumstances, information is scarce, and those both inside and outside the agency want to know what is happening. This causes people to seek information more actively and take refuge in what the media says. Hence, organizations are under pressure to provide complete and accurate information in the shortest possible time. Therefore, it is said that the first response by the organization, during the first 24 hours, will determine whether the situation becomes a mere incident or a real crisis.
The optimization of economic resources to solve a crisis will also be a significant factor. In an organization, the finance department is in charge of managing the monetary resources in favor of their correct use. However, the plan involved in dealing with a crisis can sometimes be very costly, and the company may not have that budget available. Therefore, the role of the finance department in the course of a crisis will be fundamental. It will have to evaluate a series of questions such as; if it is convenient to request a loan of funds to other organizations, private or state, that can have that capital and want to do it, to which profile of companies it would be viable to make this request, or if to administer the resources consciously that the organization possesses will allow solving the crisis.
The ultimate goal of public relations is to act as a tool of communication that creates and reinforces links between people, companies, or institutions, and ultimately generates as a win-win relationship that is maintained over the years.
The uses of public relations within a communications plan have changed over time. This tool can dynamize its processes to achieve better performance when included in a strategy. For this reason, its application is considered pertinent.