Remember when the thought of partnering with procurement seemed like a really bad idea? Up until a few years ago, most financial and insurance meeting managers viewed their procurement departments as a nuisance at best — at worst, as a threat. But a funny thing happened on the way to strategic meetings management: Your procurement colleague became an indispensable advocate in terms of consolidating meetings spend and showing bottom-line return on investment.

Now it's time to consider another new best friend: your public relations representative. Why? He or she will ultimately be the person who can help you and your company get out of a bunker mentality, move on from the AIG effect, and set the record straight on the value of meetings.

It's likely that you know who your PR person is, but not much more. This was the case with the majority of planners attending a session on “Public Relations Now” at the FICP Northeast Regional Meeting in July. The group gained insight on the “do no harm” mind-set and the potential value of a PR person from panelist John Hartz, Sloane & Co. Hartz represents such industry leaders as American Express Business Travel, New York Life, and StarCite. In talking about how meeting planners can partner with PR colleagues, he offered the following seven tips:

Engage early

Your PR rep will feel more involved and be able to offer better counsel when briefed early about your meetings and events.

Practice full disclosure

Without being fully informed, PR people will not be able to make the best recommendations.

Link to strategy

Help your PR people understand how your meetings fit into the corporate mission by explaining your goals and objectives.

Understand the risks

Knowing the risks companies face in dealing with the media will help you to partner more effectively with PR.

Explain the benefits

Make sure your PR colleagues understand the value of your meetings so they can communicate the good news story.

Keep in touch

Getting to know your PR contacts and staying in touch with them means they will be more available and accessible when a problem crops up.

Share the news

Now is the time, as we start to move into economic recovery, to proactively communicate the positive things you're doing.

The road to positive media coverage is an uphill climb — but cultivating a relationship with PR is the fastest and best way to get there. You'll expand your team with an advocate who will protect and promote your meetings and events.