Let’s face it, we’re all a little off balance these days. The initial shock and upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic are giving way to acceptance that we live in a new, uncertain and different normal that is constantly evolving. Companies and nonprofits alike are trying to figure out how to do business when the future is so unclear.
Strategic communications and public relations professionals play a vital role. When clients ask us how to stay present and communicate about products or services, we should ask them a different question—what are the conversations your clients most need to have with you? What can you offer them now that will help?
For communications and PR strategies to be effective, it is vital to understand the real problem to be solved. That involves some soul searching on the part of the company or organization.
Most are reluctant at first to address their core products or programs, much like a person in crisis can be resistant to therapy. It’s far easier to say, “We need more compelling boilerplate language and more press engagement,” than to say, “We need to adapt.”
Architect Louis Sullivan once said that “Form Follows Function.“ Well, in my book, good communication follows good business strategy and these strategies have to shift.
Rather than parading out a bunch of tactics—press coverage, click-throughs, blog mentions, etc.—PR folks need to act more like therapists and get to the root of the real issue. Sometimes this means pushing back on clients who demand only that we get them press coverage or clicks, or that we help launch a Facebook page or website.
Strategy comes first. Tactics—that is, traditional media, social media, one-on-one meetings, Zoom events, webinars, conferences, speeches, etc.—come second.
The best public relations approach is always about strong relationships between businesses or nonprofits and their stakeholders and audiences. With the social media tools available today, we can now have these conversations more directly with the people who matter most to us. And we need to make sure that our work, our product, our services, our cause and our ideas matter to them as well.
The glue in each of these critical relationships is communication. And that’s two-way. So like a good therapist, PR pros should view their work as helping clients use communication to nurture and strengthen the kind of relationships that may be more important now than ever before.