All managers have to consider the public impact of their actions. Public relations (PR) are the terms used to describe the way issues and messages are communicated between an organization and the public. Handle PR internally, or employ experts.
- RAISING YOUR PROFILE
An organization’s reputation is one of its most critical assets. The role of public relations is to build and enhance a good reputation, and to prevent or mitigate damage to that reputation. Experts PR practitioners work to a plan that is linked to the organization’s overall long-term strategy. They will use a number of techniques to supplement paid advertising campaigns and increase public awareness. The most effective advertising is favorable word-of-mouth: this free promotion should be one of PR’s main objectives.
- WORKING WITH PR
In small companies, PR may be handled by management or by employees who are not necessarily specialists in dealing with press or publicity. In larger organizations, internal PR departments are indispensable, mainly for the routine tasks of keeping in touch with and responding to media and interest groups. If you have a PR department or employ a PR company, make sure that the relevant people are informed about things likely to generate public interest – from new products to the latest company results.
- EMPLOYING CONSULTANTS
Generally, if you have a new message to relay to the public, it makes sense to use specialists PR consultants. Even large corporations with dedicated internal departments are likely to employ consultants occasionally. These range from multinational empires to one-person bands. They should be experts in anything from crisis management to arranging conferences, from launching products t introducing a new manager. Their contacts are usually extensive, and they should be capable of original ideas as well as effective execution. Always look at past references. Remember, too, that however able the PR company, it can only be good as its client, and relies heavily on the brief.
- USING PR EFFECTIVELY
The main thing to remember in using PR is that the quantity of coverage is less important than quality. PR is naturally cheaper than advertising, but you get what you pay for, so set aside a reasonable budget. Also, remember that publicity is double-edged sword and unpredictable, and PR officers are not to be blamed automatically if the media take a hostile turn. Nor can PR officers compensate for a lack of proper brief. You need them to work with you to devise a PR strategy, but as in any supplier relationship, you must outline their duties and your expectations clearly. Agree on a plan of action, and review progress of the campaign at regular intervals.
- USING PRINT MEDIA
Published articles that mention your organizations or products can be more credible to the public than straightforward advertising. Take advantages of opportunities for you or your PR consultant to get features and news stories to print, at both national and local level. Editors are usually hungry for copy, so do not be shy about making a direct approach to them. Some editors can be extremely demanding, so check that you know exactly what the paper or magazine wants and hire professional help if necessary. In the same way, ensure that your press releases are clear and well written.
- USING RADIO
The numerous local programs at local and national levels can be a valuable asset to any publicity campaign. Radios provide companies with an alternative, immediate way to reach large target audiences. Before agreeing to take part in a program, check on the type and size of audience it will reach. You do not want to find yourself talking only to a few night owls. Talk to radio personalities on equal terms, and give honest answers. Try to control the interview so that you talk the most and can get your message across.
- USING TELEVISION
Television is an extremely powerful and seductive medium, so accept any invitations to appear on TV, so long as you are confident in front of a camera. Get training in how to handle an interview beforehand. The technique is to look and be natural, and to answer questions as you would be away from the camera. Managers can get valuable practice for appearing on real TV by taking part in video conferences, especially if they are exposed to unexpected questions.
- TALKING TO JOURNALISTS
It always pays to cultivate good relations with the press and journalists who work in radio and TV. However, remember that journalists are not interested in serving your ends, but in getting a good story – preferably one that beats that their competitors. Play fair: giving exclusives to one journalist will irritate the others – and you do not want journalists as enemies. If journalists contact you for your comment on something, and you are not confident about what you should say, ask if you can phone them back with a statement.
Points to remember:
- PR departments and consultants must be kept informed about the organization’s public actions.
- Staffs should be trained and told when to speak to the media, and how to deal with enquiries.
- PR consultants need to be briefed so that they know what is expected of them.
- PR can be used as a valuable complement to advertising.
- Using PR to project the image of an organization can improve overall public perceptions.
- New releases should be tailored to the needs of the press.
- Your company will benefit if you find time for media people.
- It is always safer to stick to the truth – the facts are sure to be uncovered eventually.
- The more accessible you are to the media, the more courage you will be given.
- Get your PR people to handle potentially difficult media situations.
- If you meet a hostile journalist, keep your cool; say nothing that could damage good PR.
- If bad news breaks, admit the reality to everyone – especially yourself.
- Buy the newspapers and magazines you want to influence.
- Treat cameras and microphones as if they were friendly people.
- If you have a good relationship with the press, exploit it to the full.