Public Relations in the age of strategic partnerships

Increasingly we live in an age of collaboration and strategic partnerships. This is true across both the public and private sectors in the UK. Yet have we truly embraced and understood the unique opportunity for us to add value in this new operating environment?

Strategic partnerships take many forms. This includes joint venture companies, outsourcing partnerships, service level agreements (SLAs) with organisations, even informal networking partnerships.

Within the public sector the shift to outcomes based accountability (OBA) has played a key role in driving increased collaboration and investment focus in strategic partnerships. This combined with reduced budgets, yet growing public demand for services, only further drives growth in strategic partnerships. In essence more can be achieved for society through public bodies working in partnership.

The same is true in the private sector. Brexit, the rise of populism and its implications for strategic Corporate Social Responsibility, combined with increasing R&D costs is leading to more collaboration and strategic partnerships. This is supported by PWC’s Global CEO Survey 2017. It revealed that 48% of global CEO’s plan to pursue profit growth through strategic partnerships in 2017.

In my consultancy work I have consistently found a tendency to assess strategic partnerships through the lens of profit growth, cost reduction, sharing R&D risk and business capacity building. These are important considerations at due diligence stage. Yet how often do executives screen strategic partnerships through the lens of core values alignment, brand authenticity and organisational culture?

All forms of strategic partnerships impact organisational reputation. There is arguably a strong case for strengthening strategic partnerships due diligence in terms of organisational culture, corporate governance, leadership styles and core values alignment.

This is supported by research in 2013 by Luc Bardin, Raphaël Bardin and Guillaume Bardin. They found that 70% of strategic partnerships fail over time and less than 10% live up to expectations (Strategic Partnering – remove chance and deliver consistent success 2013, Authors: Luc Bardin, Raphaël Bardin, Guillaume Bardin).

For us as public relations and reputation management professionals this presents a unique opportunity to add value. We need to embed our profession more deeply in the strategic partnerships process providing specialist counsel to Boards and C suite on reputation management implications in this niche area.

This is an important opportunity to seize because organisations need to be increasingly authentic. Being authentic means living out your core values as an organisation. In today’s post profit age living out core values goes beyond profit. It transcends all aspects of the organisation including strategic partnerships.

Picture credit: Štefan Štefančík

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