3 Reasons Why Public Relations Ain’t That Easy

Kermit the Frog saying "It's not that easy doing PR"

Original Image Courtesy: Mike Cassano; Cropping and Text: Casey Braun

As my first year of graduate study in public relations draws to a close, I feel compelled to discuss something I don’t think enough people realize: Public relations isn’t that easy.

Having experienced a myriad of internship and informational interviews, conferences, PRSSA meetings, lectures and other industry events, I feel qualified to make that declaration. It is inspired by a disturbing realization I had this year. There is a very real issue public relations practitioners have to face every day. They have to justify their existence in corporations and the usefulness of their services to clients.

I would argue the root of all evil in the public relations justification battle are the following sentiments: “It’s just communication. Anyone can do it,” or worse yet, “I’m the fill-in-the-blank-with-C-suite-position. I know best.” If those were true statements, I imagine we wouldn’t have this list detailing the biggest PR failures of 2013.

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If Trust is the Issue, Why Not Be Genuine?

While attending the 2014 YouToo Social Media Conference at Kent State University, it seemed one theme speakers kept touching on repeatedly was the importance of organizational-public trust.

However, it seems based on the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer and some other research from the Pew Center, trust is precisely the issue the general public has with institutions like business, media and government.

As all of the crisis communication theorists and professionals will reiterate, telling the truth is as vital for maintaining good business operation as paying the electric bill. In this age of social media, publics, and particularly millennials, will out organizations who are caught lying. The surest way to tear a relationship asunder is to lie.

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Lack of Transparency Messes with the Bottom Line

Dollar Bill with a bewildered George Washington

Image Courtesy: Reuben Ingber

Tell the truth; tell it all; tell it first. That’s very often the credo for crisis advisers. Skeptical C-suite folks may very easily pooh-pooh the notion in favor of advice from a lawyer–however, what saves a company in a court of law may crucify it in the court of public opinion.

Such has been the case, recently, with Pinnacle Holdings (JSE:PNC), a technology company headquartered in South Africa. It seems Executive Director Takalani Tshivhase, the company’s greatest shareholder, has been charged with both bribery and corruption. Continue reading

The Four Elements of an Effective Apology

I'm Sorry NoteWhat makes an effective apology—a timeless question.

Before a practitioner ever tries to apply mortification strategies to an organization, he or she should ask himself or herself that question in the context of his or her own life. If a friend did to you what an organization did to its publics, what would you need to hear to issue forgiveness? You might follow that question with several other questions: Is the apology sincere? Do they promise not to do it, again? Do they even know what they did wrong?

There are many theoretical guides to apology in crisis literature. One of my favorites, image restoration theory, comes from Benoit’s 1995 book, Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies: A Theory of Image Restoration Strategies. However, for the purposes of this post, I’d like to steer clear of ponderous theory and explain a simple four-step approach to effective apology that I find quite accurate and helpful. It comes from Brigham Young University’s Center for Conflict Resolution. Continue reading

Three Questions to Answer Before the CEO Speaks

Tony Hayward

Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum

During a crisis is not the time to decide who should be speaking to media. Emphasis should be placed on the strategic messages that he or she will deliver to contribute to the overarching goal of recovery with an intact image.

However, too often organizations have no crisis plan in place and the first question the dominant coalition asks a public relations counselor during a crisis is “who will talk to the media?”

The danger of not having a clearly established plan in place, including who will talk to media and from whom that person will receive his or her information, is the hapless soul thrust in front of a camera may not have any media training or, worse yet, may seem disingenuous, unsympathetic or unintelligent. Continue reading