All companies need to take a pre-emptive position on how they will communicate with the public.
Planning your corporate messaging is similar to planning a new building. Considering your plan for controlling and mitigating a fire while the building is burning would not be a good strategy.
Architects work diligently to integrate good structural planning into the beautiful structures they design. They consider as many foreseeable aspects of the building as they can in order to have a functional and welcoming structure.
Master architect Frank Lloyd Wright once stated, “All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable.”
When building your company message structure, you must keep a human perspective on what needs to be communicated and how your company will be portrayed. Keeping a focus on the overall human experience of your communication will inform the voice and key points of a good PR plan.
There are three different kinds of message structures that need to be developed in order to communicate effectively with the public. These are not complete messages, but foundational templates on how your company will respond in different areas of operation.
Having a PR professional assist in the development of these message templates can ensure your company has a successful communication campaign—much like hiring a professional architect to develop a new building plan.
This is the area of public relations that most companies think of when they consider their communication plan. It is like life insurance: We know that it is necessary for good future planning, but no one wants to think about it. The volatility of crisis communication is a product of a deficit in planning. In order to successfully navigate a crisis, there has to be an emergency plan in place.
Spend time with your PR professional considering the potential failures or damages that your company may be exposed to. Develop a hierarchy of these crises and develop a mock scenario to discuss.
Are you in the automotive industry and could have a product failure that causes property damage or human injury? Are you in the food industry and could be exposed to a product contamination issue? Do you develop a service or software that could expose a client to fraud or loss? What will you do if you have internal fraud or an on-site catastrophe?
Make an outline of all the different aspects of your operations and products, and then prioritize the likelihood of a crisis for each.
Once you have an outline, your PR team should be able to build a set of message points for your company. These points should align with the overall brand message and goals, and give a clear and simple plan for how the company will respond. As mentioned above, it’s important to give these message templates a human perspective. Be empathetic in how you develop your story.
It’s also important to have a complete crisis-messaging plan. Many times a company will create a preliminary crisis response and then go silent through the mitigation process. You shouldn’t be continually providing public releases for each step of the process, but you do need to have a plan for first response, remediation, and then transition.
Transition is a critical part of a good crisis plan. If your company suffers a crisis and responds to correct the situation, how are you going to transition the messaging back to a positive position? This transition is crucial to the successful completion of a crisis plan.
A corporate PR message plan is the structure you will use more often than any other piece of your PR plan. This is the overall message for the corporate identity. The corporate plan depends heavily on the brand identity and position, as well as the corporate executive goals.
A good corporate message plan should consider the practical public messaging for a company’s operations. Below are some examples of topics that need to be developed in your corporate PR plan:
- Changes in leadership
- Acquisitions and mergers
- New product/service announcements
- Industry trade participation
- New certification and/or process integrations
These are just a few examples; your PR professional should be able to discuss what corporate plans will be most important for your company.
Having a preliminary plan for how your corporate press releases will be managed gives the opportunity to strategically position your company in the best view to the public.
Many companies don’t consider the impact a mishandled corporate release can have on their stockholders, vendors, partners, and public image. Building the corporate message playbook beforehand gives your company a much more polished and consistent overall dialogue to the public.
It is also important to consider releasing these sorts of messages to help mitigate and control any third-party conjecture or interference in your company’s messaging. You are the greatest authority on your company’s operations, so you should be the main spokesperson for the plans and decisions you are making.
A solid cultural PR message plan is something that many companies don’t give a lot of consideration. In an era of demanded transparency and expected social responsibility, every company should have a plan for how they will communicate their cultural impact.
If your company does not have an ongoing message about their corporate involvement in the overall human experience, it will struggle with any negative external perceptions that might arise.
Having a body of work that outlines the positive impact your company has on others will be the best deterrent to bad publicity. Below are a few examples of positive cultural messages that can be developed:
- Environmental impact
- Internal personnel promotions
- Charity/community involvement
- Association award recognition
- Industry leadership contribution
A good PR professional should be able to sit down with your executive team and build a positive cultural message plan that aligns with your goals and aspirations.
Many times, cultural involvement is handled internally and is not shared with the public.
Some companies consider these releases to be frivolous or pandering, but your company’s social investments should be leveraged for your success just as any other investment.
I hope this summary information about planning a PR message helps you better understand the value of a little foresight in building corporate dialogue with all your stockholders.
One key dividend you will mine from this process is a better understanding of your company’s strengths and exposures. By understanding how you will communicate in these different areas, you can look for ways to maximize or mitigate certain aspects of your operations.
It is crucial to understand the value of having a professional public relations agent help you develop a holistic approach to your company’s messaging. You would never consider building a new facility from the ground up on your own. Like an architect, your PR professional can help you understand and identify the best message to meet your company goals.
If you have any questions, or would like to schedule a time to discuss your company’s goals, please contact David Brashears, Director of Public Relations for Creative Energy. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 423-926-9494 ext. 111.
By: David Brashears