I Don’t Need PR (and Other Misconceptions)

 

Occasionally, we are brought into a crisis communications situation. Some are minor, but others are pretty major and threaten a business’ ability to operate. Once the dust settles, too often the CEO or communications leader reflects and says, “We were keeping our head down, performing well for our clients and, then, we were blindsided by this issue. I didn’t think we needed public relations.”

The truth is that almost every business needs public relations before they need public relations. Here are five misconceptions about public relations that we hear – and our response.

We have nothing to spin.

Hold up. Stop right there. There is a misconception that public relations professionals “spin” information. That’s false. If you’re doing it right, it’s really about radical transparency and showing your audiences who you really are and what you stand for. It should never be about pretending to be something you’re not simply because you think that’s what people want to hear.

The public sees through spin and they’re looking for companies and their executives to be human and to walk the walk. If your actions don’t align with the messaging you’re distributing to the public, you will lose credibility. United Airlines is a great example. Need we say more?

People who need to know, know we’re great.

At some point, your company must expand beyond your network, beyond your clients, beyond your friends. It’s critical to create new communications channels. That’s where public relations can play a role.

A quote attributed to a former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassee sums up PR as “…PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” The first part of the quote contrasts advertising with public relations in describing advertising as “Advertising is saying you’re good….” Everyone thinks they’re great. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be in business. When someone else says you’re great, it’s worth gold.

If we have an issue, we’ll fix it then.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about public relations. Public relations and reputation management require a constant drumbeat of news. The most successful companies share good news and information year-round. It is much harder to bounce back from negative news if negative news is the only information the public has received about your company. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation of goodwill with the community before you need it. Mid-crisis is the wrong time to think about building a reputation.

We aren’t controversial.

Yet. Even the best companies sometimes face challenging times. These challenges may stem from poor financial performance, employees who turn out to be bad apples, peripheral participation in a project that goes south, and more. Expect the unexpected and prepare. Every company faces challenges, which is why, again, building a foundation of goodwill is crucial.

We’re too busy.

We totally get that. Things get crazy, and you’re focused on your core competencies, and PR just isn’t one of them. That’s ok. Often, we act as the external communications department for our clients. We don’t just consider chief communications officers our clients, but sometimes also CEOs, heads of human resources and more. Because we’ve developed communications programs and stood up communications departments for billion-dollar organizations from scratch, we’re happy to serve as the communications department for your organization.