Public Relations

Behave yourself, version 3.0

Isn’t this brilliant? In the age of us (humans) building satellites like our ancestors did farming, we still need to discuss how Corporate Communication professionals should behave with their agencies?! Wow, long-winding sentence to begin with.

Let me nudge you a little more, why not! With our extended capability to buy land on other planets or acceptance to write thesis around ‘empathy’, do we need awareness on how to respect our external partner agencies? These are not whimsical statements, but very pertinent behavior styles, often noticed.

Corporate Communications is critical for an organization to build strong pillars of effective storytelling and desirable reputation – this has been strengthened far more, post pandemic. Which makes it crucial for the Corporate Communication professionals to navigate through an ocean of information and pick important nuggets for the ever-increasing ‘stakeholders’. So, a professional within the company is catering to the demands of the internal stakeholders, assisting them to manage or improvise on better communication channels (and messaging), as well as ensuring all of this transforms into a great narrative externally. Basics? Are we on the same page?

So, we are clear to not be ‘postbox professionals’ – that is simply picking information from one and passing on to another – but instead add value to the process. Then why do we tend to forget how to respect our external partner agencies, who in a way are the extended employee teams for us. Have patience, had to set this context before I share more.

As Corporate Communication professionals when we decide to engage and sign-up an external agency partner, it signifies that we need that extra support. Also, this means we acknowledge the fact that the external agency partner has an expertise that we need, to help us perform better. So, why do I see majority of the Corporate professionals often belittling the agency teams or trying to showcase that they are better than the agency partner? Is that required? Have often witnessed power battles, where the Corporate professionals want to ‘arm-twist’ their agency partners in believing they are good for nothing and possibly at times taking away the credit for their hardwork. Yes, this happens more often than we want it to, thus leading to unacceptable behaviors or exchanges between the two teams. If this isn’t enough, have actually noticed ‘communication hoarding’, where external partner agencies are not informed well enough or timely enough to make appropriate recommendations. And then they are reprimanded for not contributing effectively.

Hence my question, why should a Corporate Communication professional be in a tug-of-war constantly with their external partners? You decided that you need support from additional teams, who will add value to the table. If they didn’t have that talent, you wouldn’t have associated with them, in the first place. Now that you have chosen to collaborate with an external partner team, what stops you from respecting them and acknowledging their effort? In no way does one role over-shadow the other one. Each team – Corporate Communications & PR Agencies – have significant charters to manage. I mean, Corporate Communications today has outgrown far beyond just media engagement. Which means, we have so much more on our plate to manage today and we need the support of internal and external team members to create the impact that we had set out for. Then why this hustling around with our external agency partners?

Now that you are thinking, also evaluate how you behave with them in your speech, ‘ungodly’ timelines and hilarious feedback like ‘this doesn’t work for me’! Life is very short, and the lifecycle of a PR person is even shorter, because they can jump within the organization anytime or maybe be on your side of the ecosystem, anytime. It’s not called karma anymore, its career graph growing exponentially. Which also insists that the external partner is talented and hence this growth. So, be nice to people, before your intolerable behavior circles back to you, in this lifetime itself.

Why am I writing this? Because heard more than enough times from innumerable PR agency friends on how terribly behaved Corporate Communication professionals are, these days. And I shudder to believe it, especially now that I’m enroute my Corporate journey (in my career).
Even today I learn each day from my external partner teams. We work like those ‘balance wheels’ used in mechanical watches to display the right time of the day and never stop. This “well-oiled” relationship is what all of us should strive to work for. Our external partner agencies are not competition, they are in the truest sense our partners. Together – should be the mantra – because each of us brings forth a unique expertise (I don’t need to explain that atleast).

As a mother, my endeavor is to keep reminding Shlok, my 8.5-year-old son, to be nice to friends and always help them. I don’t know if he understands when I touch his heart and say be nice to everyone, maybe someday he will. But if we all start practicing the art of helping each other and just being nice, the science of this life will get easier, be it work or home. In the near future, Im hoping we are far more kind, as a race, than we pretend to be now.

The movie ‘how to train your dragon’ demonstrates that parents need to get out of the trap of hanging onto their children forever if they want their kids to be independent and flourish. Time, we apply the same analogy here, to our external support system (at work)!

Pooja Trehan

PRPOI, Co-Founder

SugarBox Networks – Head – Marketing Communications

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