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VIEWPOINT: Why CNY Needs More Professional Communicators

By Alice Maggiore

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Communicator. Connector. Celebrator. Counsel. Brand Manager. Liaison. Promoter. Influencer. Storyteller. Spokesperson. Strategizer. Translator. Voice of reason.

When you hear the words “public relations” (PR), what — and who — do you think of?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their publics.” Since PR is about building and maintaining relationships, it’s intuitive that a proficient PR practitioner should be a “communicator” and “connector.” Still, effective PR professionals hold many other titles to help their organizations.

Read that list at the top again and consider how those roles apply to your company. Do the descriptors remind you of any one person or department? As the bridge between all functions in our workplaces, PR professionals fill all those roles. And yet, there aren’t enough of us to meet the needs of all the organizations in Central New York.

In 20 years of providing trusted public-relations counsel, Strategic Communications sees two themes: Either a business knows it needs professional communicators but can’t find them due to a shortage; or it doesn’t understand the value of having communications support and thus, hinders its growth.

On the first issue, many organizations are struggling to fill essential communications roles. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be more than 25,000 openings for public-relations specialists on average annually over the next 10 years, largely attributed to seasoned communicators reaching retirement age or deciding to change careers. The PR field also shares skills that overlap with marketing and advertising, and many early- or mid-career PR professionals spend time in those sectors. Plus, with the rise in remote work, businesses are competing for talent on a new playing field. Skilled communicators have more options than ever as PR can often be done virtually for companies worldwide.

Periodically our clients and other businesses ask if we know of PR professionals who might be interested in filling open positions at their companies. Although we’re well connected and able to make several recommendations, we often find that we share those names with multiple organizations because there is a smaller pool of PR talent in CNY.

This shortage of professional communicators will only become greater because of “the Micron Effect.” Micron has committed to investing up to $100 billion to build the largest semiconductor facility in the U.S., which is projected to bring 50,000 jobs here in the next 20 years.

As the pieces line up, there’s a magnifying glass on new opportunities for Central New York. From health care, to housing, service businesses, grocery stores, and everything in between, local businesses will grow, and out-of-town companies will join our community to work with Micron. New organizations will need clear messaging to appeal to the community. Concurrently, existing businesses will need to ensure they’re communicating that they’re still here.

With so many stories to tell, who will pick up the pen or start typing?

While the number of PR positions is expected to grow over the next decade, it’s encouraging that we’re also seeing PRSA membership grow — nationally and locally in our Central New York Chapter — indicating interest in the PR profession. With exciting elements like social media, PR is appealing to a new generation as more businesses realize the value of community outreach and consumer relations to elevate visibility and reputation.

This connects back to the second theme we’ve observed: What happens when a lack of PR support impedes a local organization’s growth. When it’s time to examine budgets, we frequently see dollars dedicated to PR, advertising, and marketing are the first to go. But typically, it’s when business is down that public relations becomes more critical than ever.

PR is strategy-based, organized, and intentional. Whether a workplace is trying to create new programs, solve problems, or appeal to public interest, applying the foundational pieces of PR — research, planning, implementation, and evaluation — will help it succeed. Having your PR team in lockstep with decision makers makes your brand and image stronger. We build credibility, recognition, and trust.

Too many organizations are inclined to only consult PR experts when they’re navigating a crisis or looking for a reputation reset. The reality is that by bringing in a PR team earlier — or better yet, by having it in place from the beginning — a business increases its chances of achieving goals. Then, should an issue unexpectedly come up, there’s already a strategy in place to meet the challenge.

So, how do we recruit more talent to join our ranks? Well, collectively as a business community, we need to do some of our own PR.

The first step is to consider what makes your companies attractive. Is it a desirable location, is it providing exciting enrichment programs or flexible work schedules? By identifying what appeals to current employees, you’ll attract new talent to make your business “sing.” Literally. With buy-in, employees become loyal, built-in advocates.

To help determine which stories are interesting, think about what you naturally bring up in conversation. What excites you? What tugs on your heartstrings? And when you talk about your organization, what tends to get the most reaction from others? Stories that connect to emotions are always impactful.

People also find value in learning information that helps make their lives easier, as well as warnings about potential challenges. That’s why stories that propose solutions to solve problems and have wide community impact are usually homeruns, too.

If you’re not sure where to start, or don’t have the resources to conduct this initial PR on your own, turning to a PR agency can be a helpful starting point. Agencies can help you identify what type of PR support your organization needs and develop a strategic public-relations plan for your company — which can then be executed by your team, their team, or a combination of both.

While the shortage of PR professionals is reaching a tipping point, the good news is that organizations in our region have great stories to tell.                


Alice Maggiore is director of public relations at Strategic Communications, which provides trusted counsel for public relations, including media strategy, media training, media outreach, monitoring and analysis. www.StratComLLC.com