It’s amazing how public relations is conducted by some organisations the way it shouldn’t be. We recently attended a social function at a large manning office in Manila. The company’s PR lady and some senior managers mingled with the press and tried to make them feel comfortable. Alas, the Chief Executive Officer himself seemed aloof and didn’t say hello to the journalists present. Only when the official programme started did the man formally welcome the press people. How hard can PR be?
In the long span of time we’ve spent as a marine business journalist and now as a blogger, we’ve learned enough about PR to tell which organisations are doing it right. Here are some tips which we hope will help those who want to sharpen their PR skills:
1. Make PR part of your corporate culture. Some companies commit the mistake of leaving PR to their in-house corporate communications unit or to an outside PR agency. PR is not only about media publicity. It encompasses a whole range of activities aimed at enhancing relations with your various stakeholders. It should, therefore, be practised by the entire organisation – from the security guard and receptionist to the boss and senior managers.
2. Tell the world about the good things you’re doing. Building a positive public image for your organisation takes time. A short press release about a new product or a new client will go a long way in ensuring that your company stays visible to your publics. In an age where almost everyone is using Facebook and other social media, keeping a low corporate profile has become untenable.
3. Cultivate your contacts in the media. Don’t remember them only when you need them. Some companies, especially in Manila, also resort to paying editors and reporters to secure space in newspapers and magazines. The practice is unethical and counter-productive in the long run. There are many ways of maintaining a positive working relationship with the media. Give a reasonably priced birthday gift, send a Christmas e-card or invite the person to coffee – anything but bribing and corrupting members of the press.
4. Be open to criticism from the media, especially criticism that is constructive. If you think the criticism is unfair, send a letter to the writer or his editor to explain your side. But don’t sound arrogant and try to demean the person, the publication or the website. In the ultimate analysis, a free and healthy discussion of industry issues benefits everyone.
5. Don’t resort to advertorials. It’s a waste of money. Advertisements disguised as news stories or features are ineffective and fool no one except probably the company paying for the advertorial.
6. Don’t try to sweep the dirt under the rug when something bad happens involving your company. Call a press conference if necessary. Explain your side of the controversy and tell the public what action your company is taking to address the problem. Simple denials or burying your head under the sand in the hope that the controversy will go away often does not work.
7. Adopt and practise a clear policy on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Many companies think that throwing a Christmas party for street kids or organising a medical mission once a year is CSR. Such tokenism has little impact. CSR should be a regular, year-round activity. Otherwise, it creates the impression that CSR is just a fad and that your company is no different from the crowd.
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