The ability to maintain a positive public image is critical to achieving corporate objectives.
Which is why every organization should have an interest in public relations.
What is 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 their PR campaign following the spill.
In fact, they are still spending tons of money reminding us of what they’ve done to clean up the spill.
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.
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 their 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.
Having a written strategy is the key to facilitating a positive outcome.
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.
It takes specialized training for someone to be able to field questions from the media so having a person with the right skillset and gifting is critical.
3. PR Policy
PR policy should be written on the process to communicate or respond to any number of situations.compensation
This includes communicating with employees, the news media, or communication as part of an advertising campaign.
For example, using a press release to get the word out on new products or services. What and how information is communicated should be a critical part of the policy creation.
4. Plan Implementation
Implementing the plan according to policy requires budgeting, scheduling, and a specific program to roll out the plan.
Budgeting and timing of implementation are critical to the end result.
Using the PDCA model of quality improvement can also help facilitate a predictable and consistent process.
A good PR strategy can help build relationships with customers, investors, donors, employees, and the general public.
Having a reputation for positive things such as being environmentally responsible, a great place to work, green or supportive of other social needs 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.