New Year’s PR resolutions: to lose weight, quit smoking and save money

The new year is here, and PR could do with some serious resolution-setting, writes business comms expert Seán Galvin.

Making promises one can’t keep is traditional at this time of year. And while more than half of us don’t make new year resolutions at all, the media is annually awash with analysis of why so many fail to succeed.

Crystal ball gazing is another end-of-year ritual as pundits prognosticate on future trends. I can confidently predict that most will either be blindingly obvious or wildly wide of the mark.

But who am I to buck a trend? As a former editor of The Sun reportedly wrote when firing the paper’s ill-starred astrologer, “As you will know already…”

Small is the new big

The PR industry can expect yet another tumultuous year in today’s turbulent world. In-house PR budgets will continue to shrink. Procurement practices will become ever more aggressive.

Agency consolidation, mergers and acquisitions will persist as the big players seek to adapt to this challenging and fast-changing environment. Smaller, nimbler outfits will flourish.

Clients in the SME sector, on whom hopes of future economic resilience and growth depend, struggle to afford high-quality communications. An increasing number, however, realise the value that good PR can bring in supporting their business ambitions. Agencies looking to back tomorrow’s winners today will need to adapt their approach to serving those needs.

Meanwhile, the perennial question of where to draw the ethical line in the sand on who and what to represent shows no sign of abating. Whether it’s big tobacco, mining or oppressive governments, including those that imprison or murder journalists, stakeholder scrutiny looks set to intensify.

New year, new you?

Whether it was Einstein or Narcotics Anonymous who defined insanity as repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results each time, PR is definitely a suitable case for treatment. We need to shape up. So how are those new year’s resolutions looking?

Annual surveys of the most common resolutions consistently put losing weight, exercising regularly and quitting smoking in the top three. Saving money (spending less, managing debt) also ranks highly.

Last gasp? Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner | Moviestore Collection/Rex Features

What have these to do with PR, you say? Relax. This is no place for my unique gin and quinoa diet or gratuitous jibes at gym bunny narcissists. Not to mention the high proportion of smokers in our ranks. In the seasonal spirit of caring and sharing, I present to you (with tongue only slightly in cheek) my model new year resolutions for the PR industry.

Lose weight: concision, precision, less is more. And don’t be so heavy, man… switch off the pomposity and portentousness. Self-importance is an insidious vice and, trade associations please note, PR is not a profession (although one should apply professional skills to its practice).

Exercise regularly: practice, practice, practice and then some more (it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, remember?). Core skills may be like riding a bike but you won’t travel far if your muscles atrophy. Get out and about, meet people – different people – especially those who don’t inhabit your particular bubble.

Quit smoking: have there ever been more angry people? It’s like The Day the Earth Caught Fire out there! Short fuses and incendiary rhetoric are not a good mixture.

Our job is to advocate calmly, not fan the flames of indignation – although many of us seem too happy to do so.

Save money: I’m not advocating a race to the bottom, but client needs and expectations are changing. Traditional high-margin, high-overhead bricks and mortar agencies need to change their business models. Greed is not good. A new breed of client is more discerning, knowledgeable and demanding when choosing and retaining PR support. And a new class of agency is emerging.

Yet the road to hell is paved with new year resolutions. Will we be able to keep our nerve as well as our promises? Well, I have some good news for you.

‘Self-efficacy’ has been identified by psychologists as key to the success or failure of resolution keeping. This is a measure of personal belief in one’s ability to succeed at something; in this case, changing ingrained habits.

Now we may have our failings, but surely that’s one thing of which there’s no shortage in PR.

Happy new year!

Seán Galvin helps clients tell their story in their own words. Read his thoughts on business communications over at his G Sharp blog.


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