Spinning, Smokescreens and Cover-Ups – What Is Public Relations?
Understanding the function public relations has to the success of your business begins with knowing what public relations is not!
I was once interviewing a potential employee and I asked her what public relations (PR) meant to her? Her response? “Oh, I love PR. I just love meeting people!” I got the feeling she was thinking that public relations was, literally, “relating to the public,” as in networking.
I’m guessing that bright young lady has now probably successfully found herself in a sales position.
As someone who runs a public relations agency and understands the critical role public relations has in a business’s marketing efforts, it’s easy to overlook what most people think public relations is.
So every now and again I take a step back and contemplate the true definition of public relations – here it is.
Public Relations Is Not Putting Lipstick On A Pig
Let’s start with what PR isn’t. It’s not paying for advertorial space in a printed or online publication. It’s not simply sending out press releases. It’s not sales. And, in spite of what some people may say, it’s not twisting the truth, covering up the facts or lying in any way, shape or form – all of which are often referred to as “spinning” the truth.
I’ve always hated the term “spinning,” as it carries such a deceitful, unethical connotation. That’s not public relations and certainly isn’t the business I’m in.
Public Relations Is More Than A ‘Nice’ Story
To me, public relations is always about building relationships. Period. End of story.
“A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
There are different kinds of public relations and public relation solutions. However, the heart of PR is about building goodwill for your brand or organization, and should include:
Communications with your customers, clients or donors. Think: printed or electronic newsletters, social media, bill stuffers, holiday cards.
Generating media coverage on something your business or organization – or you personally – have done or accomplished that is newsworthy. Think: certifications, new products or services, innovation or community support.
Informing others about your organization through personal contact. Think:speaking engagements, networking… and blogging!
Is Crisis Communications Public Relations?
Of course, public relations also includes crisis communications. There’s an old saying in the PR world: Mess up, ‘fess up and clean up.
In other words, if your business experiences a crisis of sorts, damage control is necessary. Managing the crisis starts with being honest and addressing what happened. Then fixing it.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, this doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone everything about what has happened. There could be uncertainty regarding liability and legal complications, but you don’t lie about the situation or even put out misinformation.