Last week’s pressing question has been answered – with a few more questions such as “What happened to the Broncos?” How would you like to be Peyton’s spokesperson/media relations manager now? I hope you take time now and then to think about how you would handle these things. One of the most powerful tools you have as an athlete – or PR professional – is the ability to visualize. Last night I was watching a show about the Olympics and one of the athletes spoke about how she visualizes her ski run, then goes out and does it – Gold. Pro – and good amateur –golfers do the same. Public relations leaders also are not so much in the current moment as they are in the “future” moment, like the athletes. Contextual intelligence…” is a vital diagnostic skill for all organizational leaders, as well as being a central tenet of strategic public relations practice,” your text says on page 49.
“Mayo and Nohria argue that the best leaders have an ability to understand these forces, how they shape the context they operate in, as well as an ability to seize the opportunity they present. They found that contextual intelligence at this big picture level proved to be universally pivotal to the success of one thousand prominent United States business leaders in the twentieth century.” (Gregory/Willis text) In other words, it works!
One of the great values that a PR professional can bring to the organization is this ability to have external/internal diagnostic skills as well as being able to incorporate those within the context of the organization. Your text, on page 52 cites six factors important in an organization’s landscape.
One of the things that seem to be missing is who should be doing this environmental scanning. Gruning and Hunt (page 53) argue that these functions are best accomplished by the public relations function. I agree. From a holistic perspective, no function in the organization could be tasked with such a broad responsibility: looking and listening both externally and internally to advise leadership on emerging issues, trends, etc., as well as how those things can impact the organization. We have to understand and be prepared to counsel on thing that may or may not happen. If something does happen, we’ll be ready. And if it doesn’t, we’ve learned something. And, perhaps we’re better off it it didn’t happen.
Let’s look at an example. Yesterday CVS announced that it no longer will be selling tobacco products in its stores. The company took a hit in the stock market. In addition, the announcement put Walgreens on the spot. If I’m working for a chain of convenience stores, I’m going to be analyzing this and what it might mean to my company – from a customer perspective, from a stockholder perspective, from an employee perspective. The same if I worked for Walmart. Perhaps I’m looking at this from a healthcare perspective, also.
As another example, I picked up some information yesterday in the Shorenstein Center’s Journalist’s Resource (this is a free download) area about additional states legalizing marijuana. At this point, I don’t believe there is much activity on the issue here in Indiana but I’m thinking about the university’s tobacco-free policy. Would we classify “weed” as a tobacco product? What are other schools in states like Colorado doing? What about health insurance? How do we deal with this legalization with our student population? Second-hand smoke? At this point, I’m not thinking about the pros and cons of the issue; I’m thinking about how it might impact the university, its students, policies, etc. I’m thinking about defining the issue and how/why the university, from a leadership perspective, can be prepared to deal with this if it becomes legal, and how do we deal with it if it becomes more of an issue. That said, I’m not going to go out and talk about the issue, I just want to be prepared. I want to prepare my boss, the president, and I want to be prepared to respond to various groups/stakeholders who might have questions.
Here’s the point: While nothing has been mentioned about this issue, we can see that it might become an issue here. I’m going to prepare the president any myself – just in case. This is the job of a public relations leader
I ask that you survey the horizon for an issue for your organization and business to identify an issue or trend that you believe may have an impact on your organization. If you do not work for an organization or are a full-time student, you may use the university or a business of your choosing. Within two-or-three pages, develop a short background on the issue/trend, why/how you think it will impact the organization. And make a suggestion(s) on how you think the organization should handle the issue/trend for specific stakeholders. You certainly are welcome to look at these two examples or find something else that you think is possible. An example might be something along the lines of how online courses may impact residency issue on campus. And, something I am researching is the benefit for retirees of living in a college community. (This is a trend I’m seeing from some of the REITs I have.)
My objective in this assignment is to get you to be comfortable scanning the literature as well as thinking beyond the obvious. You’ll find that this will be a valuable skill for you to develop skills inherent in good public relations leaders. It also will give you confidence in developing “white papers.”