Public relations is one of the most important functions of any business obviously. I know, some businessmen might initially have a reaction of; “Who can afford those guys?” especially if they operate a small business.
However, public relations is about just this, relating to the public. It is what businesses do whether for themselves (in house), or in retaining experts to do it for them. Reaching the public is not something that an entrepreneur can opt out of, so the key to PR is in the proper valuation of firms and their compatibility with a client.
This profession and the business operation are about one thing – proper communication. Note I said proper; now let’s examine what the term and the appropriate philosophy behind good PR are. A good PR company in no way resembles Foghorn Leghorn.
Most people perceive public relations people as nothing more than high pressure salesmen or at worst con artists when you get right down to it. Like any other profession, this is as a result of improper or unprofessional activities on the part of a few, or because of knowledge on the part of those that are simply uninformed. So, what are some examples of “improper” PR or better yet, what PR should never do:
- Lie or misrepresenting a company or product – Good PR is not advertising, but rather conveying actual value. Sure in an effective and sometimes tailored or refined way, but still essentially relating the truth.
- Guarantee news coverage or success – As above, PR is not about advertising. Anyone who guarantees your service, business or product will get in the news is either lying to you or not a good PR person. Good firms will actually not even attempt to create Buzz for something that is not worthy. In the end these practices destroy the PR firm’s credibility with their network.
- Sell an instant solution – Good PR is about cultivation. Business is like anything else, it has to be grown from the ground up. This is true for services or products released by established companies as well. An idea or something of value takes time to be related and adopted. Any good PR has nightmare stories about clients who expected instant results. As we all know, being expected to work miracles is a killer.
- Utter Once; “The Customer Is Always Right!” – Sounds wrong doesn’t it? It’s not. Who knows your job best, your client or you? Caving every time you have a disagreement with a client does neither them nor you any good. You are the expert when it comes to all things public, you simply have to convince the client to do the rigt thing. This is the part where communication excellence comes in. The bottom line is, if you can’t convince your business partners you are right, either your methods are wrong or your partner is headed for a bad day and there is nothing you can do about it. Stay your own professional course always. It is the only honest thing to do and in the end, the best for your reputation.
- Believe One’s Own PR – This is perhaps the most important for professionals in the field. We all get caught up in the enthusiasm and vision of projects. We instigate conversation, make suggestions based on sound principles or experience, beat the bushes for feedback and 100 other tasks to help that special project. In the end, we develop a language and a philosophy for what we might term “vision campaigns”, and these philosophies can go to our heads. They make us believe we are right, cause conflict with clients and our network, and in the end be so counterproductive as to render us immobile.
We have become victims of our own PR, blind for all intents and purposes. Adrift in a fast paced world that is so unforgiving. A good PR firm is constantly evaluating its dogma. As in the example above, paying lip service goes nowhere. You have to know your business inside and out, and that of your clients as well.
So, in this first installment of public relations do’s and don’t do’s, we have covered what we all know and forget we know. Public relations is not rocket science. It is about communicating dreams, ideas, news and answering questions better than the businesses we work for. Better than anyone else can, and most importantly conveying the sincerity and truth of a message.
You pick your partners, more than you might think, and the best firms choose clients they believe in and that have a transparent product. PR is not advertising, it is not marketing and it isn’t show business, it is just conveying from one to another honestly and professionally.