How To Describe Public Relations

How often are you at a social gathering where you meet someone for the first time and they ask you what you do? You reply, “I practice public relations.”  And your new friend asks, “What does that mean?” Public relations means different things to different people, including the word “practice.”

The Punchline

Public relations is the science or art of crafting and subsequently executing a strategy that nurtures and establishes a bond and a trusting relationship between your organization and its target audience(s). In short, you have two key responsibilities. The first is for your company and the second to its key publics.

How To Find Balance

A sound strategy considers the needs and interests of a company’s key stakeholders and tailors its communications to them in an open, clear and transparent manner. It invites comments and feedback and responds in a timely manner again with openness, clarity, and transparency. The intended result is a public that respects and trusts the organization.

Part of the strategy is to also learn as much as possible about these key publics. How do they prefer to be communicated with? How often? Do they have any trigger issues and/or concerns? What are their values? And what is their present attitude towards your company? What could change that either positively or negatively?

Most organizations have more than one public. Besides customers or clients, all have employees and owners. In many instances, the owners are shareholders. Many also have vendors, contractors and/or suppliers. What are the answers to those same questions?

Why Does It Matter?

Ascertaining the answers to the above will arm you with critical information on how to fulfill your major corporate mission which is to protect its reputation while helping it to develop and grow its target audience.

Armed with answers to all or most of these questions, what do you need to meet the identified customer needs and/or address any of their issues? If there’s more than one issue or need, prioritize them and manage them as quickly as possible.

Consider all the tools available to you to deal with these priorities: risk management, crisis communications, brand marketing, brand activism, content creation, events, cause-related marketing, reputation management, social media, employee volunteerism, internal and external communications, media relations, shareholder relations, multimedia,and community meetings and presentations.

Set timelines for your action plans and tactics and be sure that those responsible for designated actions report their progress on a regular basis. Meet with your team regularly to discuss issues, challenges and possible changes to your plan.

As always, monitor and track your progress along with any feedback you receive. Quantify as much as you can. Some of the comments can be priceless when considering adjustments or changes to your plan. It’s also good for lessons learned and a subsequent white paper or case study.

Finally, be sure to keep senior staff and the board apprised of your progress to avoid the possibility of any surprises. Neither embraces nor appreciates surprises.