In today’s increasing corporate competitions for market share and the rapidly approaching challenges of globalization, the need to stay in the lead, not to mention in business, is the prime concern of all business managers and executives both in Lebanon and the Arab World in general.
To stay ahead of the competition, organizations in Lebanon need to address the various tools of business management, in its many forms and shapes, and especially the support of fully integrated public relations tactics.
There is nothing more important in the marketplace than the reputation of a company or an industry as a whole. Therefore, carefully managing the reputation of an organization is critical to its survival and prosperity in the industry. As such, the need to manage one’s corporate reputation should lead top managers in Corporate Lebanon to recognize the value of public relations services.
From banking and finance to hotel and tourism sectors, public relations is an important business discipline. It requires strategic vision and professional expertise with dedicated resources. Public relations is not usually a hard sell, and unlike marketing, it is certainly not intrusive or expensive. It is a field that is growing in prestige and influence.
The tools of public relations are being used across the board in the US, Europe and some parts of the Middle East, by governments, big and small businesses, non-profit organizations, trade associations and schools. Ultimately, every action or decision that an organization undertakes should have a public relations impact.
As such, independent public relations firms in a market like Lebanon should be able to provide the necessary resources and expertise in an integrated and full service operation. Dynamism and foresight are two essential parts of any public relations consultancy firm, without them the work is incomplete.
However, it is unfortunate that the understanding of the discipline in Lebanon is not yet mature. Many corporate executives are still wary of the benefits that public relations can provide their organizations, because they are more immersed in the need to see direct and immediate rise in sales figures and an increase in their profit margins.
I have personally come across three main opinions regarding public relations in the Lebanese market. Some were entrapped in the old belief that public relations is about organizing cocktail receptions only; others pleasantly showed full understanding and support for this growing discipline; while a number expressed intrigue and a need to learn more about public relations.
It is at times that I wonder why there is a great deal of misunderstanding revolving around the profession of public relations in Lebanon as well as other parts of the Middle East. Why is a discipline that has been around for more than a century, still being neglected in our region today.
I believe the blame should fall first and foremost on public relations practitioners. As experts in the field, we have neglected to promote our own profession. For decades, public relations was restricted by advertising agencies to a mere free press service to big-budget clients. Even the concept of public relations has been sidelined to only preparation of press releases (copy editing) and the organization of product launches.
To break away from that, public relations practitioners need to focus more on providing existing or prospective clients with a full range of services that center on a comprehensive reputation management campaign. Since public relations applies analysis of an organization’s immediate and long-term needs by connecting the client directly with the publics, it is imperative that practitioners analyze a client’s situation before creating a strategic plan.
I believe in order to raise the level of corporate competitions to regional and, maybe one day, international levels, organizations need to expand their management research to incorporate public relations tactics as viable, credible and cost-effective communications tools.
Lebanon’s struggle to justify the need for public relations in its own developing market should end with a new vision aimed at utilizing this discipline in order to promote the various industries in the country and face up to the challenges of globalization.