PR is all about managing reputations and there's nothing quite like some good PR to help shape the odds in your favour. Many individuals and companies know that. Bill Gates says he'd spend his last dollar on PR, and Sir Richard Branson believes a good PR story is more effective than a front-page ad.
PR is powerful and it permeates all aspects of our lives and influences our purchasing habits, lifestyle choices and political decisions. PR has the potential to build up or tear down a business or leader. It's a $15 billion business.
Some people believe that all PR is good PR even when it's bad PR. But that's not true. Not all PR is good PR. Bad PR has far reaching consequences and damages a reputation. When a company has a bad reputation, whether it arises as the result of a corporate scandal, poor customer service or dissatisfied employees it's more difficult to do business because not only do you have to repair your reputation somehow but it also becomes more difficult to attract and retain customers and employees, not to mention other important stakeholders such as investors. This pushes up the cost of doing business making it even harder for you to be successful and profitable.
Things can go wrong sometimes, so what can you do if and when it does? How can you avoid unwanted PR and if you find yourself in hot water, how can you cool everything down?
The first rule is to always remember Warren Buffet when he said: "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." Let that be your mantra.
The second rule is to continuously cultivate the right reputation. Are you ethical and transparent? Where do you stand on commercial confidentiality? Do you maintain high levels of integrity? Do you do what you say you're going to do so that others know they can take your word? Are you a member of any professional bodies, as often these can act as a stamp of approval?
Choose the right PR agency. If you don't have an in-house PR team and decide to choose an agency make sure you do your due diligence. How much do you know about their other clients? Are there any conflicts of interest? Do you approve of their ethics? Do you trust they understand you and your company? Do they have the competence you need? Always be sure that any information you give to the media is accurate and true.
Sometimes things can go wrong and so it's good to know how to handle issues and crises if necessary so make sure your in-house team or agency are prepared. If you find yourself the subject of some bad PR be sure to be able to respond appropriately. Bad PR can arise, for example, when a product, service or event fails; when there's a breach of security or confidentiality; or, when a leader behaves inappropriately and it reaches the public domain. This means taking proper and adequate measure to issue apologies, initiate investigations via a law firm if necessary, perhaps firing or suspending members of staff and being seen to take and communicate steps being taken to remedy the situation.
Be sure that you're compliant with the necessary laws and regulations, such as the new GDPR, which comes into force in May 2018. The cost of non-compliance is high enough to put most out of business.