Pace yourself to sustain your PR

by Ken McEwen, Ken McEwen Public Relations

Part of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ definition states that public relations is “the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics”.

Two of the key words there are “planned” and “sustained”. It is the second that I want to focus on for the moment, because that is where so many organisations fail in their PR efforts.

The most obvious reason that PR activity is not sustained is that it simply is not accorded due priority. We all lead incredibly busy business lives and have so many demands for our attention that it is easy to consign PR issues to the pending list, or worse still, the infamous round file.

But, at a time when reputation is so important to business success and when fast-paced communications and social media make the risk to reputation greater than ever, it is a foolish business that doesn’t accord PR a pretty central role in its management thinking.

Pace yourself
Pace yourself for the long run

The other danger is the sporadic approach. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been called in to meet an organisation, to “put together a press release”.

As we sit there it becomes obvious that there is not one story, but half a dozen, or more. It sometimes takes some persuasion to plan a programme of news announcements, when the client’s intention was to pile all the news into one mega announcement.

There are a number of reasons to break announcements into component parts. One is that you can develop a strategy for a PR campaign that uses the news to communicate the desired messages to particular audiences over a period of time.

The second reason is that people cannot assimilate too many messages at one time. I was no great fan of Margaret Thatcher as a politician, but as a speaker one of her strengths was her speeches that used the magic of three – three messages at any one time, and delivered using phrases with three key words.

IoD Scotland magazine

A version of this blog appears in the IoD Scotland Autumn 2012 magazine

The third reason is that making a programme of PR activities is essential, if you are to make a truly “sustained effort” in your PR campaign.

The importance of this was brought home to me, when planning the Save Camphill campaign which was described as the biggest community campaign in Scotland at the time.

When working on the strategy we had to plan for a campaign that could be sustained over time. In the event it we had two years of intensive activity that culminated in achieving the objective to move the proposed Aberdeen bypass away from two special needs communities.

Planning for the long term is a good lesson, too, for the PR function in any business.

So next time your PR executive or consultant, comes in for a meeting, don’t try to push for one mega announcement. Instead, pace yourself and talk about a sustainable programme that can build and maintain your reputation.
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