When I tell people I work in public relations, I often get “oh, you’re the spin guy.”
I must admit, I just cringe when I hear this. Admittedly, before I fell into the PR world, I think I had the same perception of what our industry does. But the thing is, good PR is the opposite of “spin” – it’s about using effective communication to build trust among your stakeholders.
Relationships Take Effort
At Sabo PR, we often talk about how the best crisis communication strategy is an ongoing, proactive strategy. Think about the name “PR,” relations is literally in the name. A good PR strategy will allow you to build a relationship with whoever your audiences are – internal and external. And like any good relationship, you have to work on it constantly, not just when an issue arises.
Can you recall a spat you’ve had with a friend, family member or significant other? I’m sure you can. Now, how quickly did you forgive him or her? I’m guessing that if you have a relationship built on trust, you forgave the wrongdoing much quicker than you would have if you didn’t trust that person. The same goes for organizations.
If the only time your audiences hear from you is when there is an issue, of course they are going to have a negative association with your organization. However, if you have ongoing, transparent and effective communication channels with your audiences, it’s going to be easier to navigate potential storms.
The other day, a colleague and I were talking about how frustrating it is that many people think we do is block people from information. This could not be more opposite. In our 24-7 world where information can go viral in seconds, audiences expect to have information immediately. If you haven’t built the infrastructure to do this, it’s going to be difficult to get your message out when a crisis arises.
Ten years ago, PR was heavily focused on the media, which is still an important channel we use, but the digital revolution has turned how we communicate upside down. Today, at least at Sabo PR, we’re all about identifying all the different avenues where audiences are likely to receive information. Whether that’s through e-mail, social media, community events or, yes, traditional media outlets, there are multiple platforms to create a conversation with whomever you are trying to reach in an authentic manner.
Find a way to share your story
On of the great examples of a sector that historically has struggled with ongoing communication is government. At Sabo PR, we specialize in municipal communications and love helping cities and townships share their stories. Municipalities really do work hard to provide great service to their residents, a notion that sometimes doesn’t get enough attention.
Because municipalities are focused on plowing roads, fixing water mains and keeping residents safe, they don’t always proactively think about sharing the good work they do with their communities. We’ve worked with many municipalities around West Michigan to create an ongoing plan that allows them to share with residents what they have going on.
Whether through a robust social media presence, newsletters, modern websites or media placement, there are a number ways to get information into the hands of constituents. When the issues do arise (and arise they will), the trust built has helped deescalate the situation quicker than it may have.
So, what’s the takeaway?
Communication is the number one way to build trust. It can be intimidating to open your organization to two-way conversations, but long-term, it’s going to benefit you. Build relationships with your stakeholders in good times and you won’t be tempted to resort to “spin” in bad.