Evan Nierman, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in South Florida, is founder and CEO of Red Banyan, an international public relations and crisis management firm. As a CEO with experience developing and executing results-driven PR campaigns, we asked Evan about best practices around organizational communications strategy. Here's what he shared:
In the world of high-stakes PR and crisis management, there is no "one size fits all" approach to assembling an effective communications strategy. Some cases call for subtle, measured approaches enabling clients to glide under the radar, while others require bold moves to aggressively push out key messages as far and wide as possible.
Whether an organization is looking to promote a story or bury one, there is always a glaring distinction between a reactive communications strategy and a proactive one. Being proactive and assertive calls for you to "press the truth."
To press the truth is to be forward-thinking, assertive and strategic. It is the difference between letting the chips fall where they may and taking control of the narrative to impact where they land.
Here are three reasons every PR and communications strategy should press the truth:
1. In a crisis, you cannot afford to be passive
Now more than ever, it is essential for businesses to take control of public perceptions of their brand, rather than waiting for others to do so for them. A reactive communications strategy is a losing one, especially for anyone in crisis or an organization trying to deliver its message in a time of difficulty.
During a crisis, every moment that passes without a concerted plan to seize control of the narrative allows misconceptions and false information to harden into a fixed reality in the public consciousness that can be rapidly shared by millions of people.
In the pre-internet days, many companies who found themselves under fire would opt to batten down the hatches and weather the onslaught of negative media attention. After all, the dissemination of unflattering coverage was constrained to a narrow audience, often dictated by geography. For example, a negative story in a New York newspaper would only be seen by a sliver of its readers in that location, and almost certainly never by customers in the 49 other states.
Today it's an altogether different reality. Stories appearing in obscure outlets can surge to the top of Google searches or online news feeds, broadening their impact to a nearly limitless audience globally.
During the present era of intercontinental interconnectedness and instant information sharing, companies simply cannot wait for bad news to blow over. Nor can they afford to waste valuable time in analysis paralysis fretting over responses.
Ideally, they should already have robust plans in place to address the negative scenarios most likely to emerge. Crisis PR plans are like seatbelts--they only work if you have them, and they can make the difference between gruesome injury, survival or total protection.
If a crisis PR plan was not already in place, it must be formulated at warp speed. The margin for error is nonexistent; otherwise, problems can be exponentially compounded. Companies better know what to say and to whom they should say it, and they must be unafraid to get in the discussion and press the truth.
2. Pressing the truth cuts through the noise
Spurred in large part by the ubiquitous nature of social media and growing global access to the internet, there are more ways than ever for businesses to engage with the public and drive their messages. However, standard communications strategies no longer suffice. There is simply too much noise; too many people simultaneously clamoring to be heard.
It is estimated that the average American takes in 34 gigabytes of information per day during leisure time alone. Any business attempting to reach its audience has to press the truth in order to break through the towering wall of information blocking access.
Given all the actors competing for attention, consider a bold approach that is creative enough to draw attention while still consistent with your brand. Play off trending issues and engage in national conversations with relevant tie-ins to your story. If done properly, businesses can tap into this vibrant flow of information and steer attention to their brand.
Newer businesses with less established brands can quickly develop them with bold PR strategies that define themselves and set the tone before others do so.
3. Reputations must be defended
In the simplest terms, brand equity is about reputation. Organizations and people take years to build golden reputations that can evaporate in mere moments. When crises erupt, it is therefore absolutely vital to strongly respond.
Formulate a plan to press the truth and leave nothing to chance. Ensure your story is heard across all the main platforms that could reach your audiences. Rally your PR team and social media managers to craft all-encompassing messaging campaigns that are truthful and authentic.
Do not respond to media inquiries or online comments by ignoring them or supplying generic statements that may be ridiculed by online mobs. Instead, provide context and details and tell your side of the story.
These are just some of the many reasons to employ the power of proactive messaging. Building brands and protecting reputations takes hard work and ongoing engagement, which can make the difference between catastrophe and success.