Thursday, May 21, 2015

Change management: PR as a transformational driving force

The highly competitive nature of markets today means corporations must evolve and change in order to stay relevant and keep ahead of the competition. Where once communicators did little more than spread information, there is now a golden opportunity for PR to play a much more significant role in shaping change.

By Amybel Sánchez de Walther, IPRA President 

Managing change does not involve arbitrary or capricious actions. Rather, it’s a case of responding to a strategic notion addressed to the imperative requirements of new markets. 

Once a corporation has expanded to reach maturity, many leaders become aware of the necessity for change. Making sure the objectives of an organisation are sustainable is vital, assuming particular importance in the context of recession and economic deceleration.

The management of change starts from an extensive organisational assessment, which comprises the evaluation of the main strategies of the business and its internal and operational processes. Last but not least, evaluation should extend to features related to culture. By that I mean the history, values, reputation, and the interaction of the external and internal publics. Through the collection of this valuable and diverse information it is possible to propose a strategic plan of changes for the different levels inside the organisation.

In that sense, actions may impact in different sectors:
  • a) in the guidelines from the knowledge, profiles, values and culture that are desired to be spread originate;
  • b) the contributor or the employee (leaders, middle-ranking officials, workers) who work for the organisation;
  • c) the working groups from the different areas that comprise the company; and
  • d) the culture that is built on and arises out of the former ones.

Strengthening feedback

As may be deduced, PR practitioners have particular influence and responsibility for many of these levels inside and outside the organisation. One of the key points is based on the design of adequate communication related to the projects, processes and quality practice. In parallel, they shall seek to strengthen the feedback channels to make the transitional period fluent and effective.  

In addition to leadership skills, PR practitioners shall face the challenge to support the different areas and contributors to be aligned to the requirements of the changes. This initiative of cooperation shall be interrelated with their empathy to submit the information (personally or through interactive official channels or multimedia) with emphasis on clearness, transparency and persuasion: essential components to inspire trust and in this way reduce the degree of uncertainty among internal and external publics.

The experience and expertise for creating influential and persuasive messages may boost PR practitioners to develop projects addressing the optimisation of change management. This entails establishing and organising networking with areas such as Human Resources and Finance. 

More than a sounding board

In so doing, PR practitioners move from being passive agents in charge of spreading information (a "sounding board") or cooperating occasionally (sometimes far from the circumstances or the root causes) to become creative leaders (engines and sources of innovative ideas), technicians (capable of developing projects and proposals related to the changes) and coaches. It is not only a matter of informing but of guiding, supporting and re-joining the publics in the face of the organisational culture.

In short, the presence of PR practitioners in the context of change and transformation is part of the multidisciplinary nature that is gaining ground for our profession in different parts of the globe. A crucial and demanding crossroads has been reached and the opportunity is there for PR to play an enhanced role by participating in the most important organisational decisions. 

For this reason, it is imperative that PR practitioners familiarise themselves with the processes, requirements and impacts of the business – which will change sooner or later, according to the exigencies and dynamism typical of the current market.

Author’s Details

Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.

Currently, Dr. Sánchez serves as the Director of the Research Institute of the Professional School of Communication Sciences at Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru. She holds a PhD and MA in Communication and Public Relations. Her publications focus on the evolution of Public Relations in Peru within both an academic and professional context. As part of her contribution to the development of PR and communications, she serves as a jury member for several local and foreign associations.

Dr. Sánchez believes that an ever closer relationship between the business world and the academic community is essential in sharing knowledge and improving society.