Yes, there can be a lot of flash and redirection in the course of a public relations campaign, but, at the heart of every campaign, there should be a fundamental sense of authenticity. Your audience should understand that you are coming from a place of honesty and commitment to your core message.
Sure, you might be starting from a place of pain. You may even be in a PR crisis unlike anything you have ever experienced. You may have made a big mistake, or you make be the victim of someone else’s big mistake. Whatever your starting point is, your PR response should feel authentic, connective, and relational.
If you are in a situation where your market or your audience relates to you in a strictly transactional way, you are starting off in a vulnerable position. Here’s why: if your connection with your audience is all about trading “this” for “that,” then someone else can easily come in and poach them away by offering a “better” version of “this” for some lesser version of “that.” If you are selling mainly on price, you are always vulnerable to those who can undercut you.
The same can be said about messaging. If your message is strictly transactional: you give something, your audience gets something, then you are always vulnerable to those who will promise more. Because of this, you need to offer more than an in-kind trade. You need to offer a connection. And nothing connects better than an authentic story.
A story draws people in, and it creates an understanding, whether spoken or unspoken, that you and your audience share something more than a give and take relationship. What do you have that they can feel connected with, part of, or impacted by? What are you offering them that transcends transaction? What feelings or ideas are enhanced, and what dreams, big or small, are realized?
These are the kinds of questions your story should answer. And, if you seek to answer those questions, you need to be authentic. People need to believe they are connecting with someone that’s worthy of their trust. They already want to be part of something, your job is to create a message – a story – that draws them in and makes them feel part of something more important than goods changing hands.
We could discuss a laundry list of factors that go into that “more,” but the bottom line is this: Do they think you can be trusted, no matter what happens? If you can honestly answer “yes” to that question, then, no matter what comes, you will be in a much better position to face it.
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