Public relations (PR) professionals sometimes get a bad rap. They're "spin doctors" who help explain away the bad behavior of celebrities and the über wealthy, right? Not exactly. Having a trustworthy PR consultant on speed dial can help your business fine tune its marketing strategies, better communicate with staff and, well yes, be of critical assistance should you find yourself embroiled in a controversy or lawsuit.
Here are four more detailed ways that a first-rate PR firm may be a worthy investment:
1. It can help manage media relations during a crisis. Let's say your business is involved in an accident that pollutes the environment. Now imagine that you're in the middle of negotiating a major deal when the news hits. The accident could hurt your company's reputation and put the deal in jeopardy.
A good PR firm will know how to deal with the media during a crisis. These professionals are trained and, ideally, experienced in presenting your company's side of the story in a positive and constructive manner. In some cases, your PR rep will be able to quickly get the story out of the news altogether.
There's also the possibility of internal incidents at your company. Although every business should actively take steps to prevent harassment and discrimination, for example, you can't always control every employee's behavior. A PR firm can help you manage communications, both in the public sphere and inside the company, regarding sensitive issues.
2. It can help preserve profitable relationships during litigation. Some types of legal actions, such as those involving insurance coverage, occur between entities that have ongoing, profitable business relationships. A savvy PR rep should be able to assist you with balancing your attorney's strong advocacy on your behalf with the need to maintain a healthy and cooperative connection with the other party.
3. It can help boost morale during difficult times. Sometimes, reaching out to the media can help businesses from an HR perspective. For example, if your business has had to lay off employees or cut benefits, remaining staff members may start to worry about their future with the company. They might start answering calls from headhunters or actively look for new jobs.
Sure, you can address the issue with them directly through employee communications measures such as sending out reassuring emails or holding "town hall" meetings. But think how much more effective your effort would be if a PR rep helped you tell your side of the story to the media. A newspaper article or local television profile, for instance, would reassure employees — and job candidates — that you're taking active measures to address your financial setbacks and fully expect to be back on profitable ground soon. This can help customers, vendors and other stakeholders have greater confidence and enthusiasm in your company as well.
4. It can enable you to present a consistently positive image. Often, the best way to deal with a crisis is to prepare for the possibility of one long before it occurs. After all, the court of public opinion is a powerful force in today's world.
A PR firm can guide you in laying down the foundation of a consistently, widely recognized positive public face. For example, if people see a business spending money in the community, volunteering at charitable events and championing the accomplishments of its employees, they may be less likely to target the company with excessive complaints, protests and lawsuits. At the very least, someone may be more likely to accept a reasonable settlement from a well-liked business rather than a company with a bad reputation for callous actions toward the public, its employees or the environment.
Bottom line: Reputation management — both on the internet and in real life — is a very real and critical business concern in today's litigious, social-media-driven world. Engaging a qualified and well-regarded PR firm to address either an immediate problem or as part of a risk-management initiative may be a wise investment. However, you'll need to estimate the costs carefully and determine precisely which services you really need. Ask your CPA for help.
Public relations (PR) firms offer a wide variety of services and, the truth is, your business may not need all of them. You don't want to pay for anything that won't provide substantial value — or that you can just do yourself.
Regarding the latter point, some companies do eventually decide to hire or internally promote their own PR specialists. Naturally, this means creating a new position and allocating competitive compensation and benefits to it. That could be an expensive proposition for just one position, not to mention several, so you don't want to take this strategy lightly.
However, if your business regularly deals with the wider public or operates in a relatively high-risk industry, having in-house PR staff could pay off in the ability to react very quickly to crises. Moreover, you may be able to craft more specific, on-brand messaging that's consistent with your previous communications.
Get in touch today and find out how we can help you meet your objectives.