The Role of Public Relations in Digital Transformation

Yesterday, I was speaking at/on a virtual conference, Insight Live, by Digi Leaders. Here’s my presentation which was aimed to help move on the conversation…

The theme was digital transformation and of course I had an opinion about how the role of communication and public relations should be more integrated and a strategic part of the plan. Not just a nice to have. There were 210+ people registered to attend my seminar.

I’ve worked with, and among, many people who talk about digital transformation as if it were just a case of plugging in a router and attaching some wires. I’ve heard people get excited about coding, developing new apps, recruiting new skills into the business. I have never once heard about how communication and public relations plays such an important part. It’s something I’m hugely passionate about. If you don’t have a communication strategy to bring everyone along with you (internally and externally) and buy into the transformation plan, how on earth will you achieve transformation?

My slides

 I started out by talking about what digital transformation actually is…
using digital technologies to create new, or modify existing, business processes, culture and customer experiences, to meet changing business and market requirements/needs
I moved onto what public relations is (I think it’s so important to talk about this at every opportunity, so people in the wider business world start to understand the power and value), the PESO model and then I went onto talk about reputation. I wanted to link all of this together before explaining how PR can help and lead on transformation.
Many businesses know they need communication, marketing and social media, but they don’t always know WHY they need it or HOW best to integrate it within the business.

8 steps of digital transformation

  1. Establish the purpose and objectives of the business. Put the customer at the centre and build a platform around their needs.
  2. Use data to inform strategy and keep testing, learning and iterating. Good governance is essential.
  3. Develop a manifesto around how you will commit to keep developing. Ensure every change is a step closer to purpose and achieving goals. Flexibility is key.
  4. Use automation to streamline processes and machine learning to keep evolving and getting closer to augmenting decisions.
  5. Get agile. Share ideas and collaborate across the organisation, regularly with the shared ambition of meeting customer goals. Breakdown internal barriers.
  6. Empower people. Identify skills gaps, retrain and upskill, reward thinking differently and encourage entrepreneurial mindsets. Diversity is essential to truly represent customers and bring in new ideas and experiences.
  7. Risk and security. Ensure processes are risk assessed and security is a priority. For example cyber security and data.
  8. Build this into the strategy.

Practical ways in which public relations can help achieve the transformation

  • Helping businesses to understand and define purpose and objectives and presenting this in a clear way
  • Use these definitions to communicate with customers, letting them know of changes coming and how it will improve their experience – keep on communicating
  • Empowering employees to affect behaviour change and upskill – trying to get them to change the way they work requires careful communication, additional requirements such as training need to be considered and how you communicate with the team could either have them onside or be a disruption
  • Facilitating a sharing culture and encouraging regular communication opportunities will fulfil the need to share data and also, to encourage an agile way of working
  • Develop any useful materials for internal or external use which may help stakeholders understand changes and timescales and the impact on them
  • Communicate any positive news externally to stakeholders such as media, partners, suppliers
  • Work with IT and HR to ensure the risks around the new platform, processes and timeline are assessed and worked into an issues and crisis communication plan
  • Monitoring what’s being said by stakeholders and using this to inform developments going forward
  • Reacting to enquiries and continuing to look for collaborative opportunities
The key to digital transformation is to ensure the customer is at the heart of the strategy and you’re coming up with a better way for them to make decision or buy a product. If you don’t engage with them to ask questions, listen to answers and communicate effective, it’s a non-starter.
The reason so many talk about digital transformation isn’t to scare businesses and more traditional thinking owners, Directors or CEOs, it’s so your business is future proofed by being what it needs to be for your customers.
If you tuned into my seminar, let me know what you thought of the content. If you’re wondering about how your business can transform then let’s catch up for a coffee to discuss. It needs to start now!