So what is Holistic PR? Lets take as a starting point the definition of PR as defined by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations :
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.
Public Relations is the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public”.
Now there is nothing particularly wrong with what they say, this is a decent definition of the a good part of the job of PR. However, Holistic PR, sees all dialogue between an organisation or business with its public, customers, audience and clients as a two way process, or more specifically as a feedback loop.
Whilst the definition above is very much aimed at the organisation or business influencing in one direction, Holistic PR recognises that influence extends in both directions. A company that fails to listen to its public is less likely to prosper. Therefore since we as PR practitioners are in the centre of that dialogue, we must also relay the essential messages returning back to the organisation.
The massive explosion in the use of social media, that has now become an accepted part of the majority of people’s lives, gives immediacy to that feedback that did not previously exist. It has changed the rules and changed the way in which companies and organisations have to communicate with the public. It is not the only way in which we receive feedback, it can come from the journalists we speak to, the graphic designers, the advertising agencies, the videographers, the operational partners, but back it does come. A clear message built on clear values and aims, will sail through. A woolly message hastily erected on uncertain values and nebulous aims, will quickly attract an endless stream of queries and therefore more work.
In marketing, it is now important to provide content. There is an expectation on the part of the public that they will be engaged with, offered a treat before they will entertain a new relationship with the company. The ground has also shifted in PR, we can not just be about the Press Release any more, albeit it is still a vital tool. We have to tailor the social media profiles of clients. The inevitable consequence of this greater demand from the conversation with the public, is that the communicating organisation has to be clear what and who they are. It forces them to question everything about their organisation. From Branding and Values through to how it utilises staff, communicates to them, how it offers its products and services, what works and what doesn’t.
The digital environment now provides a mirror into which every organisation or company must stare. It will reveal faults and deficiencies very quickly; which if it wishes to be attractive to its public, it has to address. The challenge for the practitioner of Holistic PR, is that they have to act as interpretor in this scenario. If the client’s message is questioned, the PR practitioner will often field that question first. If that question has no answer, or an insufficient answer, then it is the job of HPR to stimulate the client organisation to respond to those deficiencies.
That is often not straight forward, and ultimately it is not the responsibility of the PR provider to run the business, that is not our expertise, just to deliver the message. However both company and PR provider will benefit from clear and constructive dialogue, and if there is an understanding of the feedback loop from the outset, it will make life simpler. Ultimately HPR recognises the responsibility of the feedback loop and will attempt its diplomatic best to make that benefit the client organisation, which when working well can reap huge rewards.