Quick Bites: Building a PR Department

Quick Bites is a series where I pen three quick learning points about a particular topic, to fit in with my post COVID-19 lockdown schedule. Here are three learning points (or tips) from a quick research (using this article) on building a Public Relations (PR) department from scratch: 

1. Start with a good definition of PR: “Public Relations is a management function that helps to nurture relationships between an organization and its stakeholders – groups that can either enhance or constrain the ability of the organization to deliver on its mission. And all of this with the good of society/all in mind.” – Professor Emeritus James E. Grunig, University of Maryland

2. Have measurable goals: The author shares that good goals are measurable and tend to flow from what PR is defined to be. Some include:

  • Improve relations with key groups
  • Convey mission/vocation/story
  • Become more responsive to target groups
  • Foster leadership team and “put them out there” with greater confidence

3. Ideas for building a PR department:

  • Find experts who are willing to act as mentors and advisors. Consider PR directors at organizations whose mission most closely aligns with yours – ie: professional or industry associations or governmental institutions and/or retirees that have experience in PR. Ask if they’d consider helping you with strategy or finding qualified volunteers.
  • Establish a solid “source” of potential PR volunteers or interns. Many PR programs at academic institutions demand that students find a co-op placement (for credits). A partnership with your local campus or vocational school can work wonders.
  • Take the time to read about PR from quality sources. Consider Tactics Magazine from the Public Relations Society of America – one of the most insightful journals in the business, or join the mailing list of the Institute for Public Relations.
  • Build a team that combines Technicians and Strategists. The former have the skills to program websites, write quality content, design a nice poster or organize events, for example. The latter understand the strategy and the overall program management. Both are needed.

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