By Alessandra Simkin, Board Member, Conscious Capitalism CT
Public relations professionals are too often known as the people you need to call when you have a scandal that needs cleaning up, but I argue that this stereotype is outdated and generally inaccurate. In fact, PR leaders are really the people at the table who aim to keep corporate leaders transparent to disrupt scandals before they occur, meanwhile guiding companies towards greater consciousness and more conscientious business practices.
What on earth do I mean by this and how does it happen in real life?
Before a Business Decision is Made
In the caricature of PR pros, we’re called after the fact…solely to clean up the mess. I’m optimistic that by now, most businesses have realized that it’s important to bring a PR leader into the mix before a significant business decision is made and rolled out.
If you’re a business that’s focused on the conscious path and doing business more conscientiously, and you don’t have a PR executive at the table as you work through important business decisions, it’s time to find a good partner. Here’s why.
A PR leader is always thinking about “how things will look” and the truth is the answer to that question is changing by the second. A good PR executive will follow what’s culturally relevant day-to-day, minute-to-minute and use these insights to interrogate optics in the current zeitgeist. We all keep this famous phrase top of mind: “perception is reality,” and when a PR executive starts asking questions, we uncover realities that a well-intentioned group may have missed. We also uncover opportunities to infuse more layers of authentic value into a business decision and can help gain widespread buy-in as they help steer the ship accordingly.
Picture this – your company has a new product designed to help moms, and you decide to launch the product on Mother’s Day. An influential mom blogger gets wind of this and shares with her followers that she feels like the timing of the product launch is tone deaf because Mother’s Day is a time to honor moms and not a time to sell them a new product to help with their daily responsibilities. If a PR executive was in the room, you would have likely discussed timing, as well as your influencer strategy. You might have changed your launch timing, or maybe you would have kept the timing, but decided to accompany your launch with a give-back to make moms in need feel special, including a way to positively engage the influential blogger with your give-back program.
Announcing a Business Decision to the World
Whenever you make a big business decision – this is an exciting moment. In an ideal scenario, a PR executive was at the table providing guidance in the first place, but if not, better late than never to charge them with crafting the announcement. At this point in the process, a PR executive will evaluate the business decision, ask the questions about how it will look and assess opportunities to ensure it is received in the best possible light.
In the example above, your launch timing is set in stone, but bringing the PR leader in to help with the announcement could give you the opportunity to think about adding in a give-back before making your announcement or engaging with stakeholders before the announcement goes live to make sure your intentions are clearly understood. This kind of relationship-building is well worth the proactive investment.
Cleaning Up a Business Decision Gone Wrong
You made a big business decision, you announced it to the world, and it didn’t go exactly as your team had planned. This can happen, especially given the fact that we’re living in a world with a 24/7 news cycle where something that felt appropriate in the morning may feel tone deaf by lunchtime. PR leaders play an important role on the team and can partner with leadership to identify opportunities to change the trajectory of the conversation – often that’s by tapping into a higher purpose and looking for a more conscientious path forward.
Generally, people think PR pros are responsible for sharing an organization’s good news at best or cleaning up a scandal at worst, but the reality is that whenever we have a seat at the table, our role offers us a strategic platform to ask questions that can lead organizations toward more fully cognizant and therefore wiser and more forward-thinking business decisions. We are ultimately responsible for the reputations of the organizations we support, and when we fully realize what that means, the PR profession is a great place for an aspiring Conscious Capitalist to help make the world a better place.
Conscious Capitalism CT