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Friday25 July 2014

Value your PR – they could make you famous

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How to make best use of your public relations staff

Like many other professional services, architects are often poor at managing their non-core team — anyone who is not an architect.

You know you need them, but are not sure exactly what to do with them. The role of the in-house PR is a good example, where practices have a habit of hiring a very young PR (the word “girl” is closely linked), a bit easy on the eye, who can double up as the receptionist.

He or she is then given very little guidance or time to understand the business or its philosophy, while being expected to make the firm famous. This usually leads to only one outcome: frustration for all concerned — particularly for the practice, as much of your investment is wasted when productivity inevitably drops or they simply leave.

The trick to hiring in-house PR support is, first, be very clear about what you want to achieve.

Who in the practice is going to manage the individual and the process? Please don’t say the HR manager — nothing against HR managers, but they usually have the same frustrations in getting the attention of decision-makers. It has to be a director who has clout.

Allocate time — I concede that this is always in short supply, but PR people need face-time to understand how they can market and support you. They can’t operate in a vacuum.
Make sure that you respect the individual concerned as a professional; there is nothing more soul-destroying than ignoring their advice or ideas. In my experience, most in-house staff members leave because they no longer feel “valued or respected”.

Provide them with a realistic career plan. If there is only room for one PR person in the practice, it’s going to be very difficult to offer career progression, but you can offer access to training, networking and potentially outside mentoring.

When you are so closely focused on doing your main thing — architecture — it is easy to forget that the rest of your team members have ambitions and needs. If you get it right, you will end up with a very loyal support team that can help you achieve your goals.

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