PR and IT Collaboration: 6 Do’s and Don’ts From the Communicator’s POV

A common question we ask attendees at PR News conference sessions on search engine optimization and/or digital content creation is whether or not they take responsibility for adding content to their own websites and for optimizing their own content for search. Generally about half of those in the room say they hand off the content in the form of Word docs, jpegs and video files to in-house web or information technology (IT) specialists and leave the optimizing to them, which is always a bit shocking.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, senior marketing communications program manager, Greg Kunkel
Greg Kunkel, senior marketing communications program manager, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

This often carries over to the data and analytics that PR pros and marketers must now subsist on. The same communicators who don’t work in the back end of their own sites are more likely to depend on—to paraphrase Tennessee Williams—the kindness of strangers, otherwise known as IT professionals.

Greg Kunkel and Kevin Kautzky, communications team members at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory—a U.S. Department of Energy research lab—contend that for the sake of their own careers PR pros should come to grips with the coming nexus of IT and PR, and develop tech skills of their own. They’ll expound on this very topic at PR News’ Social Media Conference in New York on Oct. 20. At the very least, PR pros should work on their (yes) communications skills with their IT counterparts so they can establish a true partnership with common goals.

To help communicators move toward the nexus of communications and IT, Kunkel and Kautzky share six do’s and don’ts for working with their IT counterparts:

Do—Engage them early in your planning. Identify a resource within the IT department that you can brainstorm and bounce ideas off of. This happens well before a project or proposal deadline is put on the calendar. Understand what your IT colleagues are capable of and have that top of mind as you are thinking broadly before a deadline is set.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, communications group manager – energy and environment, Kevin Kautzky
Kevin Kautzky, communications group manager—energy and environment, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Do—Be clear in what type of support you think you need. The craft of IT is incredibly diverse, so know what you need. The skills to execute mobile apps, websites, big data analysis or technology upgrades aren’t always found in one person or division of IT.

Do—Return and report. Once a solution has been implemented, share the results, good or bad. Giving IT credit for the role they played in a successful project goes a long way toward future endeavors and builds the overall reputation of your IT staff, which is something they will appreciate. If a project doesn’t turn out as well as envisioned, sharing the results with IT not only keeps the partnership alive, it also provides valuable insight IT can then use to ensure the next project goes better.

Greg Kunkel and Kevin Kautzky of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will lead the session "The Information Technology Skills PR Pros Need to Survive and Thrive" at PR News' Social Media Conference, which will be held Oct. 20, 2016, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.

Don’t—Assume they are waiting on your call. Even if your project is urgent or has high visibility you can’t assume that your IT colleagues aren’t just as busy as you are. This is about planning and professional respect. Sometimes you might have to wait, and that might have to be OK.

Don’t—Bring landline questions to a smartphone discussion. Do your homework and know what you need from your IT colleagues. Being aware of current trends in IT and being able to talk the talk will move you from broad discussions to purposeful planning much faster, keeping costs low and the health of the team high.

Don’t—Force them into a silver-bullet answer. Again, the diversity of IT skills and solutions is incredible, so be open to alternative ideas or approaches that you might not have thought of before.

Harnessing the potential of the communications/IT nexus is all about authentic relationship building and professional respect, says Kunkel and Kautzky. Being a great teammate makes all the difference, regardless of your position.

Follow Greg Kunkel: @gakunkel

Follow Kevin Kautzky: @KevinKautzky

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI