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Making The Case For 'Good' PR (And Five Ways To Achieve It)

At one time, the term "public relations" was reserved almost exclusively for those in the upper echelons of the corporate world. In recent years, it has become routine lingo for small business owners and lower-level management.

Over the last 10 years, public relations, or PR, has become embedded in our everyday vernacular with celebrity scandals and crises leading the way in our news cycle. Many people believe that PR pertains only to representation of high-profile people and brands. In fact, the term is merely representative of the practice of managing the spread of information and is neutral. However, its intent is to mainly foster or maintain a favorable image -- in other words, "good PR."

Good PR does not have the market cornered on being media-driven. Actually, cultivating good PR can relate to many different areas. Here are five ways in which an individual or brand can strive to maintain good PR:

Governmental Transparency And Community Relations

These days, our news cycle is monopolized by stories of governmental gridlock, leading to lack of trust and a growing tribal mentality. It has become all too common for news on politics to focus on divisiveness and clickbait headlines, quotes pulled out of context and politicians being politicians, rather than elected representatives of their constituents.

While this may drive ratings skyward for media and may even prove to be good PR for said politicians on a certain level (as making headlines might make an elected official a household name overnight), it’s not good PR for our governmental institutions or public trust.

I would argue that good PR, in a case like this, means transparency. We want elected officials to hear us, and we want them to be honest with us -- not tell us what we want to hear but tell us what we need to hear as long as it’s coming from a place of truth.

Transparency can include anyone from a member of the city council to the president. Transparency means clarity. It means being told what’s really happening, even if we do not like it. This generates trust within our institutions and protects these institutions from erosion.

Social Media

With nearly two-thirds of the adult population having a Facebook presence, and 77% having a social media profile, the way social media users engage online has become one of the quintessential topics of our time.

No longer are people living their lives in a vacuum. In following the truest definition of public relations -- managing the spread of information to the public -- all social media users, not just celebrities, politicians and C-suite executives, have become public personalities. And everyone must practice public relations, even if they aren’t equipped with the knowledge to do so on a fundamental level.

The question then becomes: Are they benefiting from good or bad PR? This is often a question that comes up when a 20-something enters the workforce after having spent their teen years posting embarrassing party photos on their social media platforms.

Good PR, in this context, means making sure that everything one is posting on social media puts them in a favorable light, not only for the current moment but well into the future. It’s not just about seeking attention and "likes" by being provocative, but about making sure one’s content is curated so they do not damage their public identity or reputation.

Businesses run into similar tests every day with crowdsourced review sites, such as Yelp. With anyone being able to access the service, it becomes crucial that small businesses and established brands not only protect their interests from negative reviews but equally cultivate a positive presence on these sites. Businesses have gone under overnight from negative reviews on platforms like Yelp from one perceived or real slight.

Customer Service

If there were two imaginary boxes -- one for brands seen as favorable and one for those not, and the public was asked to put brands in each box, can you guess which boxes Southwest and United Airlines, for example, would go into? What about Comcast or Starbucks?

While their favorability or unfavorability is due in part to what’s seen in the media, often it’s due in larger part to individuals’ own customer service experiences. That’s because good customer service is good PR.

Connecting customers to robotic overseas call center representatives or forcing them into a labyrinth of phone codes is not good customer service and not good PR. Good customer service is not slimming down seats, extra charges, empty check-in counters or snappy gate agents. Good customer service is being friendly and accommodating to a customer’s needs. If a business wants to strive to maintain good PR, it should begin with its customer service experience. A business's customer service experience can tell a customer everything they need to know about a brand.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no doubt one of the best ways for a business to earn a favorable positioning as a brand while also making a positive societal impact.

What first began as an approach for the largest of corporations has now become vital for almost any business, small or large. Whether community involvement or practicing environmental responsibility, CSR is good PR.

Employee Relations

In just one month, Glassdoor, a website allowing employees to review their employers, counted more than 143 million views. Who knows a business better than its human resources?

The idea behind a site like Glassdoor is all about transparency and leveling the playing field. How a company treats its personnel gives a glimpse into a brand’s culture. With more options for products and services than ever, customers will regularly consider how a company treats its employees before forking over their hard-earned dollars. Whether it’s investing in perks or building a positive culture for employees, positive employee relations can impact a brand’s bottom line and also prove to be good PR.


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