Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
The ability to maintain a positive public image is critical to achieving corporate objectives.
This is why every organization should have an interest in public relations.
What are public relations?
According to Wikipedia, the definition of public relations is “a field concerned with maintaining public image for high-profile people, commercial businesses and organizations, non-profit associations or programs”.
It is all about how an organization is perceived in the community.
We often hear of “PR nightmares” during times of crisis. The PB oil spill was a classic example of a PR nightmare.
Response in times of crisis influences how the public perceives an organization.
And if done well can gain new customers but if done poorly can cause a mass exodus.
Anyone who followed the Gulf Oil Spill story is familiar with how aggressive BP was in its damage control efforts.
BP invested a lot of time, energy, and money into its PR campaign following the spill.
In fact, BP spent tons of money reminding us of what they’ve done to clean up the spill.
Why Is A PR Strategy Important?
Developing a Public Relations Strategy is instrumental in influencing the public image of an organization.
A good strategy can help build rapport with customers, employees, and the general public.
For instance, Public Relations is a major effort at the White House. The Press Secretary is the spokesperson who communicates on behalf of the President with one goal – build rapport with voting Americans.
The goal would be for the organization to have a good reputation coupled with name recognition in the community.
A well-thought-out strategy can be used as part of a comprehensive marketing plan and provide a road map for a public response during times of crisis.
Five Steps in Creating an Effective PR Strategy
Discovery is a process an organization goes through to articulate what its business is, who the business serves and who in the community interacts with the business.
This process is done through a very specific strategy and research.
For example, a homeless shelter may have a vision to “provide shelter to those who have temporarily lost the ability to provide for themselves.”
This statement helps an organization understand who they are, what its mission is, and who they serve.
The organization will then try to identify who in the community they interact with. In the case of a homeless shelter, it may be residents or businesses within the neighborhood they serve.
The organization should have a goal to create a positive relationship with everyone they interact with.
This is important because, in the case of a homeless shelter, a positive relationship can possibly increase funding, identify volunteer labor, or foster collaboration for joint community projects.
2. PR Plan
PR goals and objectives should be focused on communicating what was learned in the discovery phase.
It is important to have a well-thought-out communication plan for employees, the general public, and those who interact with the organization.
Another part of the plan is developing a strategy for how the organization can be both proactive and reactive.
The plan is proactive by marketing an organization’s products or services, increasing market share and name recognition. As well as maintaining a positive public perception.
The plan is reactive in how the organization plans to respond to unplanned or unforeseen events.
For instance, let’s you oversee a healthcare facility. A PR plan would be proactive by offering free services within the community you serve.
Now let’s imagine that this healthcare facility experienced an armed intruder who attacked a member of your staff and created a major news story. A PR plan would be reactive in the way it shares details of that incident with the media.
A written strategy is the key to facilitating a positive outcome because the plan has already answered the difficult questions.
An important part of the plan is the identification of the person who speaks on behalf of the organization, the message that will be communicated as well as the tone of the message.
For instance, you need someone who is comfortable in front of a camera and can think on their feet to field questions from the media.
It takes specialized training for someone to be able to field questions from the media so having a person with the right skill set and gifting is crucial.
3. PR Policy
PR policy should be written on the process to communicate or respond to any number of situations.
This includes communicating with employees, the news media, or communication as part of an advertising campaign.
For example, a press release might be used to get the word out about new products or services.
The kind of information that needs to be shared, and how that information is communicated should be part of the policy.
4. Plan Implementation
Implement the plan according to policy. This implementation will require budgeting, scheduling, and a specific program to roll out the plan.
For instance, let’s say you oversee the healthcare facility and you are starting a program to make the community aware of care safety for children.
This program might be funded for marketing materials and community events to promote the child safety program.
Budgeting and timing of implementation are critical to the end result.
It is important to evaluate the performance of how well the plan is working.
Invest the time to create SMART goals so you have measures to track how the program performs over time.
Use the PDCA model of quality improvement to help facilitate a predictable and consistent process.
PR Strategy Builds Relationships
A good PR strategy can help build relationships with customers, investors, donors, employees, and the general public.
Work to develop a reputation for positive things such as being environmentally responsible, a great place to work, green, or supportive of other social needs.
These efforts can do more to acquire new business than any paid advertisement.
But more importantly, having a plan to quickly respond in the event of an unforeseen crisis, to demonstrate your commitment to making things right, can only reinforce the reputation you have worked so hard to earn.