In This Post:
PR Professionals Maintain and Enhance Your Company’s Reputation.
Entrust public relations professionals with development and enhancement of your company’s reputation.
To maintain your competitive standing in the age of multi-media assaults on customers’ attention, you must develop a comprehensive, coherent communications plan that differentiates between marketing and public relations. Your plan operates on the idea that you will boost revenue and build your reputation by sending one clear, memorable message via all media.
Develop your communications strategy and tactics with a clear sense of your message and mission; words communicate the message and actions carry out the mission. Consistent with your philosophy and plan, then, all of your advertising should repeat and reinforce the message, and all of your press releases should show you carrying out your mission. Your marketers shine the spotlight on you. Your public relations staff assures you perform well while the light shines brightest. If your message and mission promote “service,” then marketers splash “Service!” everywhere while PR people show you serving.
Follow the best practices in multi-media promotion.
You absolutely must understand the critical difference and fundamental complement between marketing and public relations. Your marketers sell products with hyperbole and hype. They work for maximum “wow factor.” The marketing department cannot and should not manage your reputation.
By sharp contrast with your marketers, your public relations professionals specialize in reputation management. Because students majoring in public relations perfect their communications skills in prestigious journalism schools, they learn to comply with the Canons of Journalistic Ethics. They manage your public image with respect for reliable sources and special emphasis on credibility. Unlike your marketers, your public relations people never use exclamation points and always use appropriate adjectives. Your marketers broadcast “Great Service!” Your public relations staff reports “Acme Widget Corporation provides the industry’s best customer service.” Same message; radically different presentations.
Public relations professionals follow the best practices in multi-media promotion:
• They build buzz on the social and professional networks. Twitter encourages you to communicate your message in the million possible 140-character versions and interpretations, but many experts claim it works even more effectively as a reputation-building tool. Managed strategically, your “tweets” give a grass-roots feel to your messages. Your PR people can attract followers and differentiate the styles in your tweets, using the messages to breathe life into your professional personality.
• They demonstrate professional expertise on a blog. Physicians, dentists and attorneys have become especially proficient at increasing their visibility and enhancing their professional standing by posting regularly on their blogs. They discuss urgent issues and promising practices in their professions, and they especially discuss their specialties with the benefit of first-hand experience and inside information. In addition to making their names more prominent in search-engine rankings, they also link their names with professional specialties. PR professionals’ journalism training is especially valuable in blog development.
• They develop your interactive capacities. Developing “targeted” e-mails with data collected by the analytic functions in built into your website, your PR staff can solicit your customers’ comments and concerns. Although responses will by no means yield a representative sample of your customers’ opinions, they will reveal the “opinion leaders’” thoughts, providing a framework for publicity and public service initiatives that demonstrate how you respond to customers’ thoughts and feelings.
• They make some news. Your public relations department could issue daily press releases and never attract a reporter or camera. If, however, the staff coordinates and stages an event with your professional message as its theme, they make news. Nothing enhances your professional reputation more than living proof of your engagement with the community, and nothing attracts the press more than your bold solution for one of the community’s most pressing problems. People who know how to report the news also know how to make the news.
• They routinely “Google” you and control the trends. P.T. Barnum was the first to urge, “I don’t care what you write as long as you spell my name correctly.” To some extent, Barnum’s rule applies to search engine rankings where prominence prevails over substance. In the best cases, though, prominence and good news go hand-in-hand. A few peeved-and-prolific bloggers can do a lot of damage, but a few well-placed responses can prove your willingness to improve your products and service in light of customers’ concerns. PR professionals’ attention to your search engine status can protect your grass-roots reputation.
The rules don’t change.
Media analyst Erika O’Quinn reminds professionals, “The rules don’t change just because you have skilled reputation managers. All the damage control in the world cannot mitigate the effects of one terrible mistake. Ask Congressman Weiner, Elliot Spitzer, or Dominique Strauss-Kahn.” O’Quinn also stresses the importance of sending a steady stream of positive messages into the community: “Anyone can behave well once. Only the best people behave well always and everywhere. Your PR should qualify you among ‘the best people.’”