What is good public relations?

AHA Creative Strategies is a public relations agency. We’re communicators. We’re social media participants. We’re brand journalists. We use video, video news releases, b-roll, podcasts, photography, articles, news releases, media and blogger pitches, news conferences, media tours, speaking tours, speeches, special events, trade shows, community meetings, annual reports, newsletters and so much more to assist our clients in communicating with their stakeholder groups. (Notice I said “with” – not “to” – that’s very important.) We are in the business of informing, educating and creating conversation. As importantly, we’re in the business of listening and responding.

I mentioned in Monday’s blog post that I would focus on some of the tools we, at AHA, provide to clients and why they are of value. I think before I do that, I should take a step back and define what good public relations is – to us. (I don’t want this blog post to be too long, so next Wednesday I will focus on the specific tactics. Although, I have to warn you, I got a bit carried away – today’s post is a little long!)

Good public relations is working in partnership with clients. Even when it is challenging, we tell them what they need to hear – rather than just take orders and deliver what they want us to. We identify what they need (which isn’t always the same) and we approach what we do with optimistic realism. Timelines, deadlines, client resources and budgets also have to be taken into consideration.

Good PR is about building positive long-term relationships. We can build excitement about the launch of a new product, service or initiative; but we always advise our clients that – whether it’s us or in-house moving forward – the launch is just the beginning. You need to consistently provide relevant, informative, engaging and authentic communication to media, bloggers and all stakeholder groups.

Good PR embraces the critics. The online world provides an incredibly valuable focus group that organizations can tap into on a regular basis. The fact is, some organizations will always be criticized, no matter what they do. The key is to recognize the value of what you can gain from listening and, when appropriate, responding to the criticism.

Good PR blends both reactive and active. Proactively reaching out to stakeholders and responding quickly to opportunities and potential issues are both important in public relations.

Good PR is measurable. Understanding the objectives of a campaign, project or initiative is important. Defining what you want to achieve (in an optimistically realistic way) is crucial to measurement. There are many tools and technologies that can assist in measurement. We believe that measuring should be an ongoing approach throughout a campaign – not just at the end – so adjustments can be made as necessary.

Good PR is credible and balanced. This is a point that is often the most difficult for some senior executives to understand. We are experiencing a shift in how consumers expect organizations to communicate. They don’t want challenges or issues to be fluffed over or – worse – hidden or denied. Truth, transparency and authenticity are crucial to building long-term relationships. This is an area that is sensitive and needs to be strategically managed. Having an open and honest discussion with your public relations team about this approach can provide huge value to your organization.

Good PR builds your brand; it is at the heart of reputation management. An organization’s reputation is built day by day, action by action; and public relations helps to share the success, achievements and community interactions of your organization. Sharing what your organization does well and how you participate in your communities is of huge importance. Should an issue or a crisis happen, you have already built credibility and trust with your stakeholders.

Good PR is only as good as your service, product or initiative, and how clients or customers are dealt with comes into this. Good PR can create interest, engage people and raise the profile of your organization, but then it’s up to the people to deliver on the brand promise. Good PR can’t fix a bad company – and it shouldn’t.

And, of course, good PR tells the story of your organization. There are so many incredible stories that are begging to be told; it’s one of the things that inspires us at AHA. Telling stories in different formats for different audiences is at the core of good public relations. People love a good story. They want to cheer for an underdog and see someone break down barriers and succeed. They want to know how something came about and why it matters. They want to know about the “human” side of an organization – about the people, the passion and the community. A good story that is well told and delivered to the right people, using the right medium, provides huge return-on-investment.

What do you think? What do you consider good PR?

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