Posted by Tom Gable
Clients in three different industries were getting pilloried in social media for various customer service transgressions. The largest firm monitored conversations by the minute, day and night. A smaller organization monitored throughout the day. The smallest used news trackers and other alert services and viewed them randomly, with occasional forays during the day into the different social media outlets.
Experiences with all three clients and reviewing best practices from PRSA and others led to creating a simple five-step process as a starting point for responding. Of course, the complexity and severity of each complaint will drive additional creative and strategic approaches. The steps are thought-starters and assume a high degree of integrity and solid core values within the organization:
- Apologize as soon as possible. (“We are sorry to hear you have had a problem. We would like to help in any way we can.”) For timing, responding immediately is best; within an hour is fine; a few hours is okay; waiting a day doesn’t help the reputation and could lead to the negative cacophony building.
- Identify the specifics of the complaint if it is not covered in the social media or other posting. (“Can you please send the details to XYZ? [Give a person’s name and email address.] XYZ will take care of this as soon as possible.”)
- If the details of the complaint are on the social media site, along with negative comments from friends and followers, provide a partial answer online and also try to connect directly. (“Again, we’re sorry about your problem. For next steps, we would like to help you with A, B and C. Please contact XYZ who will work on this personally.”) This shows progress and a commitment to a solution.
- Take immediate action on solving the problem. Provide updates if needed. (“Quick update: we should have an answer in the next two hours.”)
- When the problem has been solved, post a quick summary of your success story. (“XYZ reports that your problem has been solved. We’re sorry you had this experience – a very rare occurrence for any ‘Company Name’ customer. We are using this to see how we can continue improving internally. If you have any other thoughts, please send them to XYZ, your personal contact here, and we will follow up. Thank you!”)
The language will vary according to the personality and culture of the company.
Gable PR worked with one fast-crowing financial services company where social media complaints began rising faster than historic trends. Most related to newer offices or acquisitions, which were still working to align with the company’s well-honed and personal approach to customer service. The company moved quickly through the social media steps outlined above. It solved most problems and gained new fans while showing off its great culture through social media. Gable PR also started increasing the number of positive news stories, blogs, Facebook posts and Twitter conversations and links to quality news coverage and testimonials, which helped better content to rise higher in online searches.
The negative noise on Facebook and Twitter soon faded to isolated whispers, fitting a phenomenon we covered here previously on the Half Life of a Tweet.
Similar approaches have worked for consumer companies big and small. Microsoft used an aggressive social media response program to turn around its image from being an insensitive monolith with no interest in helping the consumer. Microsoft bloggers and individuals on social media listened aggressively and responded to complaints in a human voice. With time, the company went from being one of the least admired companies in the country to rising on the most admired ranks, something every organization hopes to achieve.
Posted by Tom Gable
Every individual has a personality, which makes us unique, one of a kind. Family, friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances enjoy our company in person. In writing, we have an opportunity to showcase who we are and communicate our “personal brand,” to new audiences of all kinds. This short piece introduces the concept of how to think about building personal brand, standing out from the crowd and reinforcing the brand values of your agency, company or your clients through good writing, with some of your personality shining through.
Michael D. Brown, a career consultant, author and motivational speaker on branding, defines personal branding as “a method whereby you precisely lay out and clearly communicate what makes you different and unique.” To get started, answer these questions: Who am I? What makes me special? How do I want people to see me? Your writing in all communications, from a formal business letter to an informal email message, presents an opportunity to make an impression.
Picture how you can leave your mark as a bright, creative, knowledgeable and personable professional and part of an organization with strong values. Your goal is to stand out from the clutter with clear, concise messages that connect to your different audiences: customers, community connections, partners and colleagues in the industry. Think about how you can best touch each audience in your own way – emotionally, rationally, and by showing core values and beliefs, such as a dedication to creating spectacular results for a client, no matter what the size.
Branding expert Brown explains that presenting yourpersonal brand should be evident in the way you write and in everything you do: the way you talk, walk, dress, and the content and appearance of all your communications and interactions. “Your personal brand is that solid and consistent impression that comes to mind when people think of you,” said Brown.
Writing clearly and succinctly is an important first step. Take your time in thinking about what you are trying to communicate. An organizational tip: write down the three most important points you want to make. Draft your copy and edit well. Set it aside for an hour or even a day. Make the final edit and you are ready to launch!
This approach gives you control over how you communicate clearly and builds new perceptions with every reader. The second step involves building your brand around your strengths and talents and simply being yourself. What are your best attributes? Your industry expertise? Your people skills? Do you have a sense of humor? Are you dedicated to responding quickly and professionally to all inquiries?
Remember your time, talent and expertise are serving the needs of your organization and your clients. Showcase what you offer in how you communicate about yourself and the work of your agency. Once you clearly understand and can define your brand, tie it back to the agency brand. Through your writing, you can reinforce the benefits and values that firm offers to every target audience.
Here are some steps to consider when creating a personal brand:
- Identify your target audiences and markets; know whom you are targeting. Is it an existing client? Potential client? Community connection? Editor? Supplier? Strategic partner? Industry organization? Thought leaders?
- Determine your audience’s needs and wants. Is your target audience looking for a trusted resource for sage advice and up to date information? A fresh perspective from someone in-the-know? Support for new business initiatives? Solving a communications crisis? In any response, create reasons why your audience should believe you will deliver the results that your brand promises, which builds that rare attribute in any business: trust.
- Figure out what makes you and your agency different from your competitors. Be consistent in communicating — professionally, warmly and with authenticity, where your personality shows.
Keep in mind, building and maintaining your brand is a work in progress and a never-ending task. PR professionals need to be dedicated to continuous improvement in all that we do. The approach is critical in an era of ever-changing communications tools, channels, technology and client needs. According to Brown, “Nailing your brand is not something you do once and walk away from, it is a constant process of fine-tuning and adjusting your brand to the changing needs of the market and your changing interests, abilities, experiences and skills.”
Next: the ever-expanding PR professional’s communications tool box
Posted by Tom Gable
Can you be the award-winning designer and contractor for building a new brand image for your organization or client?
Architects and engineers start with a vision of what the completed new building or device will become. What are the essential elements to build on? How to add nuances and features that give it style or utility? Novelists weave in key themes and ongoing evidence to advance toward a conclusion. Artists envision the final painting or tapestry. They add strands, swaths or dots of color and create their masterpiece over time.
The same approach works in building brand image and reputation with public relations. Use smart positioning, bright writing, colorful stories and facts to create your own masterpiece.
Start with determining how your organization wants to be known in two and three years. What do you stand for? What are your core values? Can you deliver on the promise over time? And do it with personality, facts and ongoing proof of principle so your reputation and brand image grow accordingly?
The method: own content and become a great teller of the brand story at every level. With all the communications tools available, every PR professional has the opportunity to reach targets regularly through many channels and with a purpose. The following six basic steps can help you develop your own approach:
1. Research – Delve into company and industry research, market dynamics and other measurable factors. To mine gems for the creative side, conduct an internal audit of key people. Ask each what the organization stands for and to describe its key values. Does it have a culture, with case histories and anecdotes that can bring them to life? Are there great people stories? Technology breakthroughs?
2. Creative – Review the research and audits, brainstorm and think about true differentiation, not just throwing a bunch of jargon into the mix (e.g., “we are a national leader in software solutions”), especially in industries with me-too products and services. Develop key, compelling themes that can be woven into every story you sell.
3. Strategic Planning – This is essential if you are working with two and three-year horizons. You can map your route to global dominance with project management software. With all the new channels and tools available today, the game is more like three-dimensional chess (or a big PR Rubik’s Cube).
Start by identifying each of the different segments you are trying to reach (target industries, media, investors, customers and future customers). How do reach these vertical markets? The essential channels can include media relations, website, social media, trade shows, investment conferences, webinars and video.
Then, determine how you are going to build your plan over time with daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual activities.
4. Implementation – Find ways of integrating the elements and leveraging one channel against the others for maximum impact. As an example, a hotel in downtown San Diego needed a rebranding after a bankruptcy, deteriorating service and soured relationships with the community. The new owner, Kimpton Hotels, was committed to long-term success and changing perceptions as soon as possible for the newly named Hotel Palomar. This led to repositioning the renamed property as a hot boutique property in the heart of the emerging cultural district in downtown San Diego, with an ultra-community friendly staff and spirit.
The steps to creating the tapestry: develop positive ties with the civic, political, business and arts communities (opera, youth symphony, museums, local artists), celebrate the arts with regular events (commission original art for the hotel, have street-side opera performances and create arts-oriented packages for guests), and donate to local causes (nights at the hotel, dinners in the restaurants, and spa treatments).
The hotel team delivered on the promise. The media began referring to the hotel as a boutique gem in the heart of the emerging cultural district. Stories about their local commitments and activities multiplied. Positive reviews on the travel websites soared and occupancy grew.
For complex technologies and new products, you can also strive to connect with the target audiences with emotion and power, not just data.
In preparing to introduce a new portable oxygen concentrator that would replace oxygen bottles for people with pulmonary disorders, agency research found what the new device could mean to many older users: the freedom to enjoy a more normal active lifestyle without being tied to an oxygen bottle.
Rather than use industry jargon in positioning the device. People stories would demonstrate the new freedom and benefits better than any data sheet. The media covered patients taking tours and vacations they never before would have enjoyed before, such as an adventure to see spring colors in the Colorado Rockies with a device the size of a child’s backpack. Print and broadcast stories added color, with additional video testimonials on YouTube and on blogs and other online forums. Bottom line: the device went from zero sales to market leader in 18 months.
Lacking technology or other technical advantages? Proprietary processes and other magic ingredients can help break through
In the cluttered mortgage banking space, a growing regional lender was competing against giant banks. To differentiate, the company wanted to emphasize its customer-friendly personality. The result: creating the Home Guru, dedicated to the finest in customer and community service. The Home Guru would blog helpful weekly tips (home repair, selecting a school district, staging a home for sale, and best websites for homebuyers, among others). Daily Tweets and Facebook postings would provide helpful links (the company’s blog site, government resources and loan calculators). Local stories on community relations activities and local personalities built outside validation and awareness. Regional and national stories covered company growth. Awards programs highlighted many attributes: best places to work, fastest growing, CEOs and CFOs who make a difference, rising stars under ages 30 and 40).
Every square in the PR Rubik’s Cube and 3-D chessboard filled with color about the friendly customer service culture of the company and its commitment to strong community relations. The result: building a brand image for one of the fastest-growing mortgage companies in the country.
5. Analyze – How is the plan working? What needs to change? How to keep improving? Get critical and analytical.
6. Repeat – Back to the research, then march through the other steps to find new stories to keep reinforcing the core values and quality of the brand and watch your image momentum soar!
(Note: a condensed version of this appeared earlier in PRSA Tactics)
Posted by Tom Gable
The PRSA Counselors Academy discussion board provides ongoing stimulus for improving the profession. Bright members from agencies of all sizes contribute ideas on emerging trends, social media, measurement challenges, mentoring and other key topics. Occasionally a more fundamental request lands, such as how to properly onboard interns (or any other new hire) when the agency is running full tilt.
The key: figuring out what the new hire needs to know to be successful and then establishing a process to make it happen. Our favorite approach over the years is to outline what needs to be covered and then develop a detailed checklist to get there. We’ve borrowed liberally from the classic book by Michael Gerber, e-Myth Revisited; and The Checklist Manifesto:How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande; plus others. This leads to responding to the Counselors Academy request and providing the Gable PR Orientation Checklist.
It has seven sections, which can be shared among different members of your team for implementation. This spreads the wealth, while also exposing the new person to the different personalities in the firm, even if it’s a two-man (woman) shop. You can assign deadlines to each section and have updates with the new person to see how things are progressing. The new person will feel more valued and a part of the agency, rather than just another summer serf.
Posted by Tom Gable
Gable PR has been working with a rapidly growing mortgage broker company on building its national image and reputation. The program components include media relations, community relations, awards programs, social media, video and other tools, tactics and channels to reach their different audiences with good news about the company, its people and quality, which is in abundance.
The company differentiates itself based on its entrepreneurial culture, quality people and commitment to unparalleled customer service. Its leaders urge everyone in the organization to communicate its values well and deliver on all promises, to build credibility and trust – and loyal customers that keep coming back.
The leadership team has taken the quality communications theme even deeper by creating a continuous internal education program to improve writing at all levels. They started by giving several hundred team members copies of The Associated Press Stylebook and Stephen King on Writing. They provided classes and guidelines on blogging and social media. The next stage: establishing an ongoing series of tips on how to improve writing skills at every level.
Gable PR, with former journalists aboard and team members who teach at the university level and write and lecture for national audiences, was asked to create the series. As with any program, we started with research to find compelling ideas from outside experts to share with the company’s internal audiences.
We started with some old friends, such as Strunk and White (Elements of Style), then searched more broadly. We are still reading and looking to quote more sources, which is great fun. We also get smacked in the frontal lobe on occasion when we find an obvious shortcoming in our own work. The quest goes on and we have a growing bibliography shown below. Out of all this, we did find four seemingly universal truths to good writing:
1. Use short sentences and one idea per sentence.
2. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and clichés.
3. Use active verbs and the active voice; not the passive voice. Choose positive language versus negative.
4. Use definite, specific, concrete language.
That’s a start. Now, for your ongoing reading pleasures, some of our favorite resources:
- “25 editing tips for your writer’s toolbox,” Leah McClellan. Ragan.com, July 5, 2013.
- Business Communication: Building Critical Skills, Kitty Locker. McGraw-Hill, 2010.
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Gotham Books, 2003.
- Fresh Passion: Get A Brand Or Die A Generic, Michael D. Brown. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013.
- How to Write Short, Word Craft for Fast Times, Roy Peter Clark. Little Brown and Co., 2013.
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande. Ten Speed Press (Crown Publishing), New York, 2003.
- On Writing Well, William Zinsser. HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
- Stein on Writing, Sol Stein. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1995.
- The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2013.
- The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
- The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein. Free Press, 2005
- The Classic Guide to Better Writing, Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
- The Elements of Business Writing, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
- The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (earlier editions, 1959 and 1972 by McMillan Publishing Co.).
- Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerald M. Weinberg. Dorset House, 2005.
- Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark. Little, Brown and Company, 2006.
Posted by Tom Gable
When the flame wars break out on Facebook and Twitter, don’t you wish you could call in the air tankers and dump chemical retardants on the perpetrators?
We have had several recent crisis PR challenges at Gable PR where clients wanted to go to war. Being of a competitive nature, they envisioned blowing away the critics with nuclear twitter attacks from all angles. Keep the miscreants on the defensive. Show them the error of the ways. Prove that we are right.
Unfortunately, experience shows that dueling vitriol and aggression only perpetuate the madness. New critics jump aboard. The snarkiest and most clever attacks go viral, attracting new garrisons of hostile forces. Gable PR had one technology client who kept arguing against online critics for a week, only to see the ratio of bad comments to good rise faster than floodwaters during a tsunami. When he set ego aside and stopped debating, the tides of criticism receded rapidly. He moved the conversation into calmer waters with updates on popular programs and future plans.
A financial client came under the gun after a marketing person erred in posting a joke rather than a typical inspirational quote on the company’s digital billboard on a main city intersection. The joke made fun of the traits of a certain breed of animal. A lover of the breed saw the billboard, took a photo and shared on the institution’s Facebook page, Twitter and several special interest websites. The photo went viral and critics chimed in from all over the country in the first 24 hours.
The client responded quickly, taking down the joke, issuing an apology and pledging funds to support a foundation related to the animal’s care. The institution then initiated a series of positive Facebook posts about community activities, awards programs, pending charitable events and other news that reinforced its long-time values of community service. Support came in from customers and the community. Within 72 hours, the negative had disappeared and all was good again in banker land.
You can fight most negative conflagrations with facts. Keep up a steady stream of positive information. Redirect the debate with new evidence and provide links to impartial outside sources and experts wherever possible. If you’ve erred, apologize as soon as possible, provide a plan to right the wrong and then carry out the plan, with regular reports of progress.
There are other nuances to consider. We blogged earlier about the half-life of a Tweet – the rapid decline in commentary when facts prevail and nasty exchanges stop – and responding immediately in what we classified as a social media “lightning round.”
- Don’t stoke the flames
- Cut a fire break (apologize, provide a new direction)
- Bring in the air tankers (bombard them with facts)
- Congratulate yourself for knocking down a big one
Posted by Paige Nordeen
One of the daily challenges and adventures for PR professionals is helping our clients break out of the clutter of competing messages. What are the anecdotes, case histories, cultural attributes and other credentials to help bring their stories to life? How do we create great content to show what may be different or compelling about each on a continuous basis?
We interact with media specialists with expertise in many areas, making it our duty to be prepared to speak and write intelligently on a wide range of topics. From representing a biotechnology company to promoting an up-and-coming chocolatier, PR pros are responsible for translating their client’s desired message to connect with different audiences, often in a short time frame. How does one effectively conquer this communications challenge? Research, research, research!
The process can be daunting. But if you approach it with a plan and then just chunk away, you will soon find yourself amassing potentially great content to use in your work. Here are five tips for building your own database of information for creating brilliant client content.
Use all Media Outlets and Channels
In addition to your favorite search engines, check out every available online channel. Track the company’s Twitter feed to look for potential interesting anecdotes, insights and links to intriguing facts. Delve deeper into their voice, vision and personality by following the client’s Facebook page or Google+ account. Check LinkedIn for details on the leadership team that go beyond what is found in a standard executive biography. Use the same approaches to learn more about a specific journalist before making the big pitch. Listen to the online conversations. Get a feeling for tone.
Add Facts from Credible Sources, Remove Jargon
In the PR world, we translate company and industry jargon into more precise and interesting language to connect with outside audiences. This isn’t always an easy task; especially when working with clients in complex fields such as the life sciences, technology and law. Searching for terms with Answers.com is a quick way to find more information and links to other resources. Lexis/Nexis and industry websites can provide exquisite detail and precise definitions if needed. Wikipedia can be a useful starting point as well by looking for additional resources in the footnotes. Also, keep in mind that Wikipedia should be considered a tertiary source of information and not to be cited.
Slice and Dice, Chunk Away
Chopping up a huge research task into smaller, individual categories will help keep you organized, on track and not let those daunting research projects get the best of you. Try dividing the main assignment into little research buckets, such as people, products and points of differentiation. Be journalistic and research who, what, when, where and why. Pursue a chunk or two at a time.
Keep plugging away at the task at hand. Look at each topic as a separate task and you’ll avoid an information overload.
A small break here and there will keep you focused and your eyes and mind fresh while you work your way through your research. Keep a few pieces of candy in another room; step away for a moment and have a little dose of sugar. Watching calories? Take a short walk around the office or an outside break to stretch those legs and the mind. Read something different. Alternate between different projects to stimulate the mind in different ways.
Make sure that whatever you deliver to your client and the media is stellar and error-free. PR professionals need to be diligent, obsessive fact-checkers. Don’t rely on automated spell-checkers or just reading documents on a computer screen. Scrutinize a printed copy, update and then share with a colleague. Anyone can miss little things, if they have been with a document too long. Outside eyes (and brains!) can help ensure that you have turned your research into clear, fact-filled and compelling content to delight the client, the media and the ultimate target audience.
Happy researching and best of success telling those exciting new client stories!
By Anna Crowe
When I first moved into the public relations profession from marketing, one of my biggest challenges (opportunities) was thinking like a journalist. This notion resonated everywhere I turned – from PR blogs and the Twittersphere, to media and colleagues. Having no experience as a reporter (nor a journalism degree), I was now asked to identify what made my clients compelling (people, products, services, technology), write the story in journalistic style (huh?!) without hype and then pitch with all my might in hopes of securing coverage. I needed to quickly perfect my storytelling skills and be able to continuously identify the news over the snooze.
Back in one of my first jobs, in auditing, I did my share of ‘investigative’ work but the resulting working papers weren’t exactly stories and although some of my findings may have been compelling, I never had to sell the information to anyone for promotional purposes. I just documented with my #2 red pencil and moved along to another financial statement.
Then, having spent nearly a decade in a traditional marketing environment, my brain was accustomed to jumping on the latest product development, bonus feature or upgrade as if it were breaking news. Although I was used to selling the ‘value,’ I was also accustomed to selling the features of my clients’ products and brands. Another brand attribute meant more bullet points on a sell sheet, ammunition for sales reps and potential enhancement to an existing marketing campaign.
Journalists (and readers) don’t care much for bullet points unless those bullet points can relay the benefits of a product or service and demonstrate that something had occurred or changed. The attribute may not be a factor in a compelling story but the life-changing nature of that added benefit can mean the world to a reader if properly conveyed. I quickly learned that the capability to sniff out the news is both a creative talent and a procedural skill.
If 80 percent of writing is reporting (and generating media interest and resulting coverage), we need to continuously be asking ourselves – what does the product or service do that people would care about? Does it solve a common or important problem? Does it improve health, appearance, love life or save time and money? Does it help one’s career, a business or investment? Is it informative, poignant, humorous, sexy, provocative or inspiring? Of course this takes us back to that critical ‘so what?’ question, which editors aren’t afraid to ask when pitched with a potential story.
Facts are essential – we can’t overhype or oversell the story. But unless we’re dealing with breaking news, facts are not always enough. What’s the story and is that story interesting, compelling and of interest to anyone other than the client, or snooze-worthy? Working hard to tell a good story will be much more likely to generate coverage. The snooze-worthy, superficial approach will likely go directly into the reporter’s trash folder, among all other underwhelming, inferior and misspelled or overcapitalized pitches. That’s my story, anyway.
See Anna’s post on Ragan’s PR Daily.
Posted by Tom Gable
Within a few days, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner had gone from the pinnacle of power to operating from a communications bunker, charged with many instances of sexual harassment and watching his power wane all around.
The story broke with KPBS where three of his key long-time supporters and fellow Democrats submitted letters asking for his resignation. The next day, his chief of staff resigned, followed by a steady stream of fellow Democrats piling on with calls for his resignation, as further documented by KPBS.
He issued an apology by means of a video (with no opportunity for Q&A), said he needed help, said he wasn’t resigning and characterized some of the problems as being changes in society. At age 70 and a veteran of politics, community service and a position of fighting for the underdog, Filner may have trouble making the case for somehow missing the women’s movement of the past few decades.
KOGO radio (AM 600) approached Gable PR on deadline Friday to talk about the key issues and what could be done from a crisis PR standpoint. Chris Merrill, talk show host, thought the video and CD approach was ludicrous. He asked for a fast analysis of what Filner had done and how it compared to standard approaches.
Gable PR has an essential crisis and risk communications check list. We have covered breaking crisis news many times, the most recently with President Obama and the IRS scrutiny of his political enemies.
The basic elements of facing the public when a crisis hits:
- Recognize the issue; admit to the transgression
- Apologize when necessary
- Provide a solution
- Set a vision for next steps and how the solution will be achieved
- Perform as promised
The first four steps are almost always done in public, where those presenting allow for questions. When organizations have issues with services and products, or even aberrant behavior by the leadership, image and reputation can be regained over time. The length of time is directly related to an organization’s accumulated goodwill, the magnitude of the crisis and the honest commitment the organization or individual makes to performing as promised. Those with the best reputations are given the benefit of the doubt in most cases.
Our previous blog on the Obama-IRS crisis offers links to many other resources as background for consideration. Organizations and individuals who have built up goodwill among many constituencies over the long term are more likely to recover than those with less goodwill (or more bad will) in the bank.
Can he recover? Can he change? Can he move reputation in a positive direction? Chip Merrill asked a great question: does he care?
Filner has a well-reported reputation for being a couple of different parts of the male anatomy in his dealings with people. He has been ecumenical, though, doling out the vitriol regardless of race, color, creed or national origin. Detractors from all stripes have provided testimony to his running government with unfettered arrogance, bullying and confrontational behavior. The alleged attacks on women, which may be made public soon, have created a new level of outrage and could bankrupt whatever remained in his goodwill bank.
Posted by Tom Gable
According to Dr. Glen M. Broom, author of the definitive university textbook on strategic public relations, the role of the PR professional has evolved radically in the past two decades from being focused on communications to that of the more strategic role of chief relationship officer (CRO).
This evolution into trusted counselor to the most senior executives and managers was chronicled by Dr. Glen M. Broom, retired head of the public relations school at San Diego State University, during a recent presentation to the San Diego and Imperial County chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). He said the role of PR has gone through three stages:
- In the old journalism model, it used to be: ‘How do we say it?’
- As PR evolved into a more strategic role, it became: ‘What do we say?’
- Now, as PR works directly with CEOs and senior management: ‘What do we do?’
Broom, co-author and author of the last five editions of Effective Public Relations, the comprehensive, case-rich textbook used in public relations classrooms worldwide, said PR combines the conceptual, creative, communications and critical thinking skills that can help change perceptions and behaviors for the long term.
As covered here many times, PR professionals should become chief reputation officers (CRO-2), providing strategic counsel to build reputation and image with all audiences for the long term as a part of organizational strategy. Click here for a piece from PRSA Strategist on the topic. The key elements:
- What do you stand for? What are your core values? Can you walk the talk over time?
Only PR is capable of advising individuals and organizations of all sizes on doing this because of its role in building and maintaining relationships for the long term. Its professionals have become the masters of all the relationship-based communications channels and tools. PR professionals routinely manage complex programs using a mix of media relations, community relations, social media channels, trade relations and ensuring that organizations maintain a sensitivity to all of its constituencies and their communications needs.
Broom said that in the current era PR is being approached as a strategic component of organizational growth and not part of the traditional marketing functions. PR is driving the creation of content for all relationship-oriented channels. The same key values-based, non-marketing themes and core values can be adapted into paid channels, such as advertising, marketing and sales.
Broom advised that as chief relationship officer, each PR professional should be looking at the big picture, keeping public and client interest in mind at all times and using a wide-angle lens to view all audiences, not just the customer. We learn in marketing that customer is No. 1 but it’s not just the customer.
“Relationships are key,” Broom said. “Build and maintain relationships with all audiences to help organizations achieve their goals.”