Although PR agencies make a living from beating the drums for others, hardly do they know how to advertise for themselves. Eight or nine out of ten PR agencies have trouble positioning themselves, and would hesitate when asked about their strengths, weaknesses and differentiation. For Singaporeans, PR was deemed as non-essential and showed up in the ‘Jobs I don’t want to do’ list. And in Vietnam, public understanding of PR is still murky. In such a situation, how can PR practitioners change society’s perception of the value of the work they’re doing?
- Agencies should be able to answer the question: Who are we?
Because of the nature of their jobs, many PR agencies focus too much on promoting and managing their clients’ reputation that they forget to reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses, or build their own images. I believe agencies should position themselves and determine: where their strengths lie, in which specific industries/services; what makes them different from competitors; what their core values are; and what their unique selling point is. These answers are necessary to impress clients and persuade clients on why the agency is the most capable. By ‘knowing thyself,’ agencies can showcase clients the feats they’ve accomplished and help clients understand the PR profession more accurately.
The second wave of COVID-19 is no good news for agencies, especially as business and trade activities in Vietnam just got kicked into gear. However, what agencies can do now is to ‘pull the brake’ – conduct restructuring or strategic planning if needed, train employees, polish the agency’s brand image, research potential customers, or do anything that they couldn’t find the time to while being wrapped up in tight deadlines.
This might not be the most profitable period, but let’s make the best out of it. By refining the internal operation and brand image, agencies can come out more robust when the pandemic is over. Even during such a period of ‘quietude,’ it is actually a good time for agencies to learn, transform themselves, and head towards the direction they wanted. Remember, ‘quietude’ doesn’t mean ‘inactivity.’
- There’s a need for a PR association to spread knowledge, set the standards, and ‘unite’ PR practitioners
Let’s make a comparison with one of PR’s ‘neighbors’ – the digital marketing profession. Although introduced much later than PR, digital marketing gained a lot more popularity and recognition. There are two reasons for this. First, digital marketing itself has high visibility with observable results. Second, the desire to connect and exchange knowledge among the people within this profession is very strong. The digital marketing communities regularly connect to organize webinars, workshops, or conferences to educate curious young generations. There are also many digital marketing competitions, and many successful case studies are shared to help people understand the digital marketing concept. Thanks to these activities, digital marketers can upskill themselves and network with people in the same field.
On the other hand, the sense of community in the PR industry in Vietnam is demonstrably more inferior than digital marketing. Since PR practitioners usually do ‘behind the scene’ tasks to help brands ‘stand in the spotlight,’ PR case studies aren’t available for public sharing because of confidentiality. The results of PR activities are also harder to be quantified compared to digital marketing.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that PR has hit a dead-end. What Vietnamese PR practitioners could do is to establish a professional association to spread the knowledge and help the public better understand the PR concepts. The association is expected to regulate the profession, set ethical standards for practitioners, and boost the overall value of PR in the society. Accordingly, people working in other industries could view PR more correctly, favorably, and respectfully.
Therefore, EloQ Communications has taken the initiative to join international PR organizations, including the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA SEA), GlobalCom Network (GCPR), and most recently, the Public Relations Network (PRN). Being a member of these global organizations creates opportunities for EloQ staff to gain exposure to international practices and principles. This also demonstrates EloQ’s commitment to strive for professional and vocational development, while abiding by the ethical tenets in their PR and communications activities, so they can hold their head high and proudly claim: “I’m a public relations practitioner.”
And you, fellow Vietnamese PR agencies and practitioners – have you come up with a master plan to ‘vindicate’ and ‘promote’ your own profession?