Why you should practice what you preach when it comes to PR strategy.
Richard Branson is usually held up as a shining example of business. Even after a few public disasters, his PR strategy to handle such incidents has meant he has, broadly speaking, come out on top. Until September, which is when another crack appeared. He tweeted “very little annoys me in life, but people turning up late really does.” This prompted online abuse from angry customers who have been left delayed or stranded by Virgin Trains East Coast.
Assistants or PR firms manage the Twitter accounts of many public figures and celebrities. This is understandable when 97% of brands are on Twitter and social media management is not easy. So, it is refreshing that Richard Branson appears to be in control of his Twitter. However, output should still always be singing from the same hymn sheet. Messaging needs to be joined up across all communications to ensure consistency.
PR strategy fails
This isn’t the first example of companies failing to marry up their day-to-day activity with their PR strategy. A New York Wall Street firm gained notoriety with its Fearless Girl statue in front of the famous Bull statue in the global business district. This is a great idea on paper. It is a bold (and expensive) public statement to try and tackle gender inequality on the trading floor. However, the company behind it was caught out for discriminating against hundreds of female executives by paying them less than their male colleagues. The previously successful PR stunt fell on its knees and gained international press because of its hypocrisy. So, there is definitely such a thing as bad publicity.
There are far too many examples of a PR strategy crumbling under pressure. Following a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s CEO was quoted in the press saying he “wanted his life back”. This was in the wake of one of the worst ever environmental disasters which killed 11 people. He did issue an apology. But, by then, the damage was done. Any company, especially those in potentially risky industries, should have a clear PR strategy for crisis management. This should be followed to the letter to avoid the backtracking that BP had to do.
Put your PR strategy first
A PR strategy should be a carefully curated document. It needs to be full of fresh ideas, content and creativity. Ensure it reflects your company and its brand values. But, it must be a true representation of what happens behind closed doors. PR runs the risk of being inauthentic, and not worthy of quality coverage, if not speaking the truth. Yes, artistic licence is allowed and also usually assumed. But, blatant inaccuracies won’t slip under the radar.
Also, a PR strategy needs to be a working document. So, should your brand values or key messages need a refresh, this can be done simply without too much of a radical shake up. This will ensure that your communications keep in touch with what is happening in the real world, your competitors and latest industry trends.
Get your spokespeople up to speed with regular briefings, media training and guidance on how to conduct themselves in public. This should include staff at all levels from those at the metaphorical coalface to those around the board table.
Above all, never be frightened to speak out. Be bold and provide personality to your brand. Just make sure it is genuine and can be backed up with real life examples of how your company really does practice what it preaches.
From managing your PR strategy to looking after your social media.
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