I recently read something on coaching and I had an epiphany.
Being a Communications person and also being in Organisation Development, I have come to the
realisation that PR professionals could actually be considered as coaches.
Let’s look at PR professionals in an organisation, they play the devil’s advocate, they keep pricking you at every turn and though they are not technical people, they force the organisation to review and reflect on what they are doing and consider if that is the best way to reach their objectives.
Sometimes, the objective of the organisation is even not clear, it may be ambiguous but it is the PR
professional who will ask the relevant questions and enable the organisation rephrase their objectives.
And this is not done in a vacuum. The selfish reason may be due to the fact that the PR professional is the one who has to talk to it when the rubber hits the road and how easy is it going to be to explain
ambiguous things to the public?
To put my thoughts in a more defined manner, let me just take one of the Coaching Models and see
how I can relate this to practicing PR, the CLEAR Coaching Model which was developed by Peter
Hawkins in the early 1980s is a good one to try, and is also similar to the Organisation Development
Figure 1 – The CLEAR Coaching Cycle by Peter Hawkins
Table 1 – How PR and Coaching Mimic Each Other
|CLEAR Coaching Cycle Steps||Description of the CLEAR Coaching Steps||Normal PR Practice|
|Contracting||Defining the Goals and aims of what an individual or organisation intends to do||Before an organisation sets out to develop and objective or even implement an action, the PR professional has the responsibility to help the organisation streamline the objective or action.|
|Listening||Listen to coachee, just get them to talk about in-depth about the situation,||This is done by reading all about the proposed plan, listening to the people (Divisions, Departments, Product Champions etc.) and getting all the information on the plan.|
|Exploring||Engaging with the coachee to get them to get a deeper understanding of the full implications of their desire. It is good to use the Appreciative Inquiry style of questioning here to drive coachee to different perspectives||Then the PR professional begins to play the role they are hated for, ‘Devil’s Advocate’, asking questions from all perspectives and from various angles to determine if the answers or responses all match up, if the idea itself can stand up to rigorous public scrutiny and if the PR professional has all the relevant information and is able to speak to the issue.|
|Actions||Working with coachee to develop action plan and implementing them||While the actions may be taken by other people, the PR professional is usually there to ensure that the actions or any alternatives taken are in line with set goals.|
|Review||To reflect on the actions taken, evaluate them and where possible, retaking some actions to meet desired objectives||Then of course, the post mortem will come, here the PR professional has to review all comments, suggestions and feedback relating to this plan and ensure that any gaps are addressed effectively, this may mean even going through some of the actions again and even publicly acknowledging gaps and steps taken to correct the gaps.|
That, in a nutshell, is what ought to happen. But quite often, we have situations where the PR
professional is not part of the decision-making and is only brought in at the end of the process and is
told that ‘get PR traction on this’. Then the issues begin; there may even be disagreements between the PR team and Management because there would definitely be areas that the PR team would want
covered but which may not have been thought of. Also, the impact of communicating is not felt at all,
after all they are only communicating some aspects of the plan.
It is important for Management to recognise that the PR function is there to coach the organisation
and what it does, Technical Departments and Divisions should embrace this and realise that the PR
professionals are there to help enhance their work. Yes, the PR professionals are not experts in every
field, they require a lot of internal training to understand the organisation and its functions and to play the role of the organisational coach.
For the doubters, I always ask them to look at big organisations like General Electric, Apple, BT,
Boeing and a few others, find out more about the people in charge of PR and Communications and
you will find out that they are not technical people yet they are able to communicate effectively about
the organisation and all its activities and in such a manner that the public is able to understand.
The best thing an organisation can do is to train its PR professionals in the business of the
organisation. Organisations also need to recognise that the PR professional is able to develop internal skills which would enable him or her to recognise positive or negative vibes about a project and the way the media and the general public will receive information.
So if the PR Professional is the Organisational Coach, they it is also important that they learn some
basic coaching skills and know how to elicit information from colleagues, they include Looking,
Listening, Empathising, Questioning, Knowing how to Give Feedback and Intuiting. A PR
Professional should be Emotionally Intelligent not be quick to jump the gun.
By Nana Defie Badu
Communications and Organisational Development Specialist
18th September, 2017