Are You Creating Friction or Flow? The Strategic PR Partner Predicament

There has been many an article written about how public relations professionals can “win a seat at the table,” “become a more strategic partner in the business,” and “gain management’s trust.” I’m not going to claim to have any new insights on this issue, but I read a Harvard Business Review blog post earlier this month that made me think about it a little differently.

The HBR piece was actually not about PR at all; it focused on how HR professionals can become more strategic business partners. It’s an old debate that the author framed in an intriguing way: he pushed HR executives to examine whether their efforts were helping to create flow in the organization instead of causing friction. Therein lies the crux of being seen as a true business partner. He states:

“Of every action you take as an HR leader, ask this simple question: does it cause friction in the business or does it create flow? Friction is anything that makes it more difficult for people in critical roles to win with the customer. Flow, on the other hand, is doing everything possible to remove barriers and promote better performance…Even in what appear to be routine HR responsibilities, you can inject the business perspective simply by asking whether what you are doing is going to enhance the flow of the business or impede it with friction.”

The same mentality is easily applicable to public relations.

When does PR create friction?

  • Inconsistent or disjointed messaging that lacks a central cohesive strategy
  • The shiny object syndrome – chasing the next big idea or new social platform with little regard to the bigger picture or assessing results
  • Creating arbitrary processes that inhibit people from participating or diminish results
  • The “yes man” strategy, which creates a scattered program with one-off projects that consume valuable time/resources instead of taking a more strategic, focused approach

When does PR support flow?

  • Connecting the dots between different parts of the organization. This Forbes piece does a nice job of explaining how marketers can befriend other functions to add real value to the business.
  • Developing an integrated communication strategy, where PR supports broader marketing and organizational goals and results are leveraged via the larger marketing program
  • Working toward results that are meaningful to the business. What does it really mean to have 100 media hits? PR isn’t an “exact” science, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be ANY science to it. This post from Hubspot makes an excellent case for how PR can support sales.

What other examples do you have of PR creating friction or flow?
Photo by michaelgreenhill


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Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan