The importance of communications – PRCA & PCG support freelancers
By Mark Ramsdale
In previous downturns, the first two budget lines to be cut were always training and communications. But whilst training provision may have seen a dip, many have recognised the value of maintaining an active communications programme throughout the last two years.
It doesn’t mean that comms budgets haven’t been affected at all; of course many organisations have seen cut backs in their overall spend. But that in itself may not be a bad thing for long-term communications practice. It has made organisations evaluate their activities, look at ROI and other KPIs, and spend time innovating and focussing on their core messages and communications channels.
Of course, the internet and social media have, in many cases, usurped many of the traditional methods that would be employed in delivering communications objectives. They allow greater engagement with a more targeted audience, and they do all this with fewer people.
In doing all these various things, communications has developed from a purely functional tool to a strategic role that helps shape and steer company direction. Businesses of all sizes have moved communications to the centre of their growth strategies, ensuring messages to employees, existing and potential customers, suppliers and other stakeholders work together; and use it to generate dialogue to gather insight for product and service development.
One of the most interesting outcomes from this development has been the rise of the freelancer. All kinds of people for all kinds of reasons have decided to go it alone and sell their expertise to organisations. Some do it to get away from being tied to corporate structure, some do it to get a better work/life balance or to raise a family. Some do it purely for money.
Whatever their reason, freelancers have become an integral part of businesses, and in so doing, have a substantial part to play in the economy. They won’t ever replace full time staff, but they do provide a number of benefits for organisations. They bring expertise and experience at specific and or busy periods, and they do so without the ongoing remuneration of long-term employees or the various HR compliance costs.
As this way of working develops, particularly in communications, it is important these individuals are represented and supported. Equally important is the means to ensure businesses are employing good people, through supporting professionally conduct and best practice – both in terms of service provision and as a business.
For these reasons, and others, the PRCA [Public Relations Consultants Association] has teamed up with the PCG to create a PR Freelancers network. With a membership of close to 20,000 (including me), the PCG is the voice of freelancers. Readers may have seen their advertisements in the Times recently. They offer a huge range of benefits specifically for those that freelance or consult, as sole traders or limited companies.
Combined with benefits from the PRCA specific to those in communications, PR and public affairs, the combined offer includes:
- codes of practice;
- guides on PR and freelance issues such as IR35 and Section 660A;
- discounted business and lifestyle services;
- tax and legal helplines;
- market intelligence;
- event access and networking opportunities;
- tax investigations insurance; and
- specific contract templates.
As the PRCA represents employers in the PR and public affairs sector, it will recommend those in the freelancer network to its members and as the network grows will be looking to create a business referral service, not unlike the very successful Find A PR Agency service currently offered to agency members.
As a freelancer myself, specialising in public affairs, I think we offer a great deal to those in the communications industry. This partnership brings together a number of very important features for me as a business and as a comms professional.
If you’re interested in what is on offer from the PCG, visit www.pcg.org.uk and www.prca.org.uk and if you’re interested in joining the network, please send an email to me via at the PRCA: mark.ramsdale [@] prca.org.uk.
Mark Ramsdale is a freelance public affairs consultant specialising in trade associations, technology and sports.