Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005
What do your customers say about your company?
Would you let your major competitor control your sales strategy?
Public relations is an inevitable consequence of being in business. Whether you like it or not, your corporate image evolves with every interaction with clients, investors, competitors, and even between your own employees. Thus, managing perceptions of your company is just as important to the bottom line as what you sell and who buys it. Unfortunately, many companies see PR as a reaction to external forces and lose control over market direction as a result.
As with all other corporate activities PR should be treated as a strategic process. Adopting a strategic PR campaign enables a company to not only compete better in the marketplace, but also be successful across market boundaries. Being proactive rather than reactive means establishing long-term goals that are measurable and repeatable and that will ensure longevity and achievement for the company. The setting of objectives, milestones, and metrics guarantees that any and all PR activities are aligned with the company’s objectives and will deliver real results.
By answering the following questions, a strategic process will emerge for PR that will support all of the company’s process and goals.
Who are you?
What do others say about us?
What are the corporate objectives?
How can we control the PR process?
Your Internal Identity
The reality is that good PR begins at the office: possessing a strong sense of corporate identity on all levels is key to having a consistent and credible public image. It is the responsibility of management to articulate to all employees the company’s mission statement and make it actionable. This is a message that will be repeated and demonstrated to external audiences daily through virtually every company interaction. Employees who believe in the mission statement will display the corporate image through their actions. Indecision, multiple, or conflicting messages at any level will have a negative impact and inadvertently kill any momentum that might be achieved.
By making PR a strategic process and not a reaction to external situations, a consistent message will be developed across all corporate segments. Applied correctly, it is a message that will eventually evolve into corporate attitude and culture. Actively defining the image of your company ultimately impacts the credibility obtained from all sectors: employees, investors, customers, competitors, and the general public. Actions speak louder than words and govern how all outsiders will interact with you. Establishing a mission that is accepted and adopted by every segment of your company will aid in verifying your value.
Your External Identity
Initiating a strategic PR campaign allows your company to control its place in the market by defining perceptions across all segments of the value network. It is more than just a clever marketing campaign to support your products – it is an extension of the corporate identity. Think about what others say about you - your customers, competition, shareholders, and the general public. In today’s economy the response needs to be in harmony.
A coordinated PR strategy is critical to delivering a consistent and compelling message across all of your company’s interfaces. The focus is on establishing the company image, and will impact the reception you garner from each of these audiences. Confirming the corporate message needs to practiced with all departments working in unison because conflicting signals will undermine the significance of any future efforts. For example, your marketing team cannot be contradicting what the product team asserts for product capability.
A company’s image is most important for non-customers. What do your competitors say about you? Do they take you seriously? Do your suppliers? How about industry analysts? Do potential employees want to work for your company? These impressions do count and can determine the company’s maneuverability in a dynamic market by determining access to needed resources and strategic options. Strategic PR delivers a consistent, credible message that establishes a foundation for future efforts and results.
Corporate Strategy Alignment
Knowing your company’s short-range and long-term aspirations is vital in setting the tone for any and all PR campaigns. Having a clear direction allows definition of long-term goals and short-term milestones to be set and success to be measured. As with other corporate processes, the PR campaign should be aligned with management’s objectives and reinforce the other corporate efforts. Buy-in is needed from all rows and columns in the company’s organizational table. Through strategic public relations initiatives, the necessary steps will be developed to implement the plan that will support and promote reaching desired results. Ultimately, by transmitting the company’s mission through the attitude and actions of all stakeholders, a common vision will take hold that will ensure success
Increasing Your Perceived Value
Obviously, not all of the aspects of external perception mentioned above can be controlled (i.e. competitors). This is the reason, however, that strategic PR must be implemented as a proactive process. A consistently delivered message, encompassing both words and deeds, across all facets of the corporate identity will mitigate even the worst things that others might say about your company. To ensure success, PR needs to be managed with the same seriousness as sales, product development, and marketing activities. The entire corporate team must believe in the goals (which will be infectious to all who hear the message) and the process (which will generate buy-in at all levels). Most importantly, an executive must be assigned to shape and coordinate the message across the various outlets and channels. Inclusion of an outside PR professional can be a valuable addition, to avoid group-think and maintain objectivity (which underlies credibility).
A strategic PR campaign is an often-neglected component in establishing a company’s market position and chances of success. It is not focused on just the marketing or sales team, but provides them with a strong foundation to leverage, built on the attitude and image of the total organization. Like all other important corporate activities, PR must be implemented as a well-defined process that is proactive instead of reactive, with short- and long-term goals as well as objective metrics. By developing this new mindset, your company can maximize its potential by controlling external perceptions.
Agnes Brousseau has more than 14 years of public relations, sales and marketing experience with emphasis on corporate communications. She joined BlabberMouth PR a Vice President of Client Services from JPMorganChase Bank, a leader in investment banking, financial services, asset and wealth management and private equity. As an Austin, Texas-based Branch Manager, she was responsible for over $7 million in sales and increasing the overall ranking for the branch to a top position. As a direct result of her expert communications strategies and sales planning, the branch assumed the number one position in Texas for portfolio growth.
About the Author
The native Australian began her career in 1988 as a paramedic with Halifax County EMS /Hollister Volunteer Rescue Squad. She transitioned to public relations, where she headed the public relations initiatives for the organization. She was also an EMS, CPR and First Aid Instructor for the State of North Carolina and was the designated community spokesperson for EMS. In 1996 she received a Dedicated Service Award.