2010 was a challenging year for the public relations field. With all the corporate scandals, threats to ecology at the hand of big business, and a scathingly nasty political season behind us, it is no wonder that 2011 looks promising. So, what do you say to putting the old year in the rear view mirror, and waving hello to the New Year ahead?
What is the first thing on our agenda for the New Year?
A little thing called reputation, and how to maintain it, that’s what. Look around you and you see a number of corporate reputations that are shaky at best. And in a challenged economic environment, a solid reputation is the one thing any business should fight tooth and nail to hang on to. In this electronic age of social media, a reputation can be taken from 100 down to nothing with a few strokes of the keyboard. Haven’t forgotten about the whole “WikiLeaks” scandal yet have you?
It is important that you communicate regularly with the influencers of your industry to make sure that your “rep” stays as squeaky clean as possible. After all, even bad news sounds better if it originates from the source, right?
Any news about your company should come from you first, cutting off the “spinners” at the knees. To that end, it is important that you have a qualified staff person (or persons) to carry the banner for your company and make sure that the information your industry’s influencers are receiving is accurate.
A corporate communications officer is a must in this day and age. The burden of corporate image falls on this individual; and they had better have pretty strong shoulders to boot. This should be the spokesperson for your organization, as well as the funnel to all the channels that need to get all the news on your business.
In addition, there should be some key members of staff who can act in your corporate communication officer’s stead. This means having a plan in place when it comes to making statements to the press on camera, statements to print and online reporters, as well as handling press releases. Media training should also be a regular part of the growth of your business, with at least a quarterly briefing occurring for your key media personnel.
Another function of the “corp. comm.” officer relates to your internal staff, as well. While the potential damage to your business from misinformation shared by outside entities is a concern, threats from the inside of your organization can be as damaging, if not more so.
It is crucial that the lines of communication remain open to your staff. Further, the information that you share should be accurate, honest, and expressed in such a way that the employee feels a vested interest in their employer’s well being. A newsletter is a great way to get the information out to the masses — if you have masses of employees. Including a “letter from the CEO” is another great touch to express to your employees how much they matter.
A happy employee is much less likely to badmouth an employer, and even though the economy may not permit substantial pay raises, an assurance that their employer will be around to fight another day may just suffice.
If you are a small organization, don’t worry. Adopting the role of a corporate communications officer can still be a reality. In fact, you may already be acting in the role. If you are, keep up the good work. While we don’t know what the New Year holds, being prepared can help keep you and your business from being blindsided.