At its core, the objective of any public relations (PR) campaign is straightforward: you’re talking about successfully managing the communication taking place between your business and all key public stakeholders. More often than not, this will involve getting the right message in front of the right members of your target audience at exactly the right time.
But what makes a PR campaign different from a traditional marketing campaign is that here, you’re trying to build and maintain the most positive image that you can. When you sit down with a business card maker like Visme (which I founded) to create something even as simple as a business card, you obviously want to create the most positive impression you can. PR is a lot like that, only on a much larger scale.
But the most important thing to understand is that you’re not always going to be working from a totally clean slate. Sometimes you’re trying to bounce back from the release of a product or service that just didn’t connect in the way that you thought it would, causing some level of damage to your brand’s reputation. Other times you may have a full blown PR crisis on your hands – you responded to a public event insensitively or made some other type of public mistake and now you’re trying to “stop the bleeding” before things get too terribly out of control.
Regardless of the reason why a PR campaign is suddenly on your radar, it’s critical for you to understand that you’re walking a tightrope that is decidedly narrower than you may realize. But rest assured, it is absolutely possible to bounce back from the situation you now find yourself in. You’ll just need to keep a few key things in mind to make sure your campaign goes off without a hitch.
The Art of Creating Better PR Campaigns: Breaking Things Down
The most important best practice to follow when executing your next PR campaign actually has to do with a step that should be taken before your campaign begins in earnest.
This process always needs to begin by first taking the time to evaluate your public exposure to the event in question, along with any opinions and attitudes that are already being expressed. Only then will you know exactly what you need to do to course correct moving forward.
For the sake of example, let’s say that one of your organizational leaders made some pretty insensitive remarks on a social networking site like Twitter and public opinion has quickly turned against you. It’s something that is very common in the fast-paced modern era that we’re now living in, and even the biggest brands out there have quickly found out that nobody is really immune to this type of situation.
You know what someone said – at this point, you need to understand the extent of the damage their comments may have caused. Pay particular attention to conversations that are taking place not only on social media, but also in the press. Look at what some of your competitors are saying and how others may be trying to capitalize on your misfortune. You need to understand the full extent of the situation before you attempt to shift the public conversation back in a more favorable direction. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find yourself speaking into the void – and you could end up making things worse, not better, before you know it.
Along the same lines, you’re also going to want to spend sometimes developing very specific policies for communicating with the public. In a lot of ways, this is no different than the process you would go through when coming up with best practices to follow in your general marketing. But the key is before you begin your PR campaign, you want to make sure that everyone across your organization is on the same page in terms of how certain ideas are communicated. Not only will this help you put your best foot forward when it’s finally time to come out with a public statement, but it can also go a long way from preventing yourself from being in similar (and unfortunate) situations again down the road.
Next, you’ll want to create as much goodwill as you can by turning your PR campaign into an official two-way communication process. If someone in your business did something that you need to apologize for, so be it – but understand that the conversation doesn’t end with that simple statement. You need to open up all lines of communication between the public and your business and more than anything, you need to prove that you’re willing to listen and seriously consider what people have to say.
Consider going to a site like Respona to find thought influencers in your industry – people who may not necessarily be affiliated with your brand but who members of your target audience are already paying attention to. You might be able to find someone particularly notable to sit down and do an interview with where the two of you go over the situation in great detail. Not only is this a great way to show that you really understood what the problem was, but it’s also a perfect chance to show that you’re willing to listen and that you’re going to do what’s necessary to “make it right” in the future.
The reason why this is so much more effective than just issuing a simple press release ultimately comes down to how you’re leveraging someone else’s voice (and audience) to your advantage. If you pick the right thought influencer, you’ll immediately be able to tap into their audience and, hopefully, harness a little bit of that attention to your advantage. People will naturally be more receptive to what you have to say than if you were simply making a statement on your own. Then, if you have your messaging exactly right, they’ll see that you truly understand the full extent of the situation and that you’re doing what you can to get things “back to normal” again.
In the end, a PR crisis or PR scandal is not necessarily something that brands can avoid – especially with so many different opinions online these days. If members of your business have an open line of communication with the general public (as so many do on sites like Twitter and Facebook), the odds are high that eventually, someone is going to say something that makes some people upset. But that’s okay – because it’s nothing if not a learning opportunity to show that you’re willing to grow and evolve as your audience does the same.
If you execute your PR campaign properly, you may very well come out all the better for it – and that is an exciting position to be in for any business professional, no question about it.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.