Every organisation has public relations – regardless of whether they have a public relations department or use a consultant.
Some organisations shy away from the term and even major companies don’t use the name Public Relations Department but prefer titles such as Corporate Communications and Public Affairs.
The ironic part is that Corporate Communications is not really synonymous with Public Relations, nor is it a grander, more all-encompassing activity. It is simply part of what an organisation should be doing in managing its overall public relations approach.
Everything an organisation does, from the way a receptionist reacts with callers to the way it manages a crisis, contributes to the way it is seen.
As we have said before, we describe public relations as the function that manages goodwill as an asset.
Organisations that do not bother to consider their public relations and image are likely to miss opportunities and waste their goodwill rather than adding to it.
Another description we like for public relations is “applied common sense”, as much of what we help clients do is just that.
Every organisation, no matter how small, can take some very basic and common sense steps that will enhance their image and build their goodwill.
- Documenting how you want to be seen and listing strengths. Simply by spelling out these two things allows an organisation to define the points they want to
- Letting all employees know. All staff should know what an organisation thinks of itself and what its strengths are. Otherwise they can’t pass these on in their own dealings with the public.
- Defining key messages. This is part of working out how you want to be seen, but through a list of four or five key points encapsulating what you are. For example, we don’t describe Pritchitt Partners as a “leading public relations company”, which doesn’t really say much, but rather as “financial services public relations specialists”. It also helps in discussions with people outside the company – you can focus on communicating what you’ve decided is important.
- Being consistent. Inconsistency of message is confusing and reduces opportunities to build a strong image and reputation. Growing organisations can be tempted to try to redefine themselves each time they try to win new business by trying to appear to be what they think the prospect wants them to be. Being consistent with positioning might mean you miss out on some work, but it does mean you’re more likely to be able to handle the work you do win more easily and to the client’s satisfaction – again enhancing reputation.
- Defining publics. Any good public relations program defines its “target audiences” or people it’s trying to reach. It must help any organisation to know the group, or public, that can make a difference to its success, and to know what it wants to say to them.
- Reaching out. This is the “proactive” part of public relations – developing activities in some sort of co-ordinated or disciplined approach. What sort of networking program is appropriate? Would it be useful to have regular functions? Should we have some sort of regular newsletter? These are the sort of questions that help focus on what is likely to work, and avoid unnecessary costs chasing less productive activities, or activities that don’t bring you into contact with the people important to you.
Not doing these six things doesn’t mean that an organisation doesn’t “do” public relations – it just means that it doesn’t take control of it.