Boy, our profession has changed so much over the last thirty years. The awareness of our field has increased significantly and consistently during that period but I would say that it has changed exponentially over the last 5 years and will continue to do so at an accelerated rate. I still recall when I began my career explaining that PR was not just about having good social skills. Gone are those days although we still have some work to do on explaining the difference between PR and advertising, and having good social skills!
There was also a time when we could advise our clients to “sleep on it” when faced with a crisis. Can you believe that? Do you think any one of us in the wonderful world of public relations can “sleep” on anything these days? Impossible. I do remember a time when we would spend the whole afternoon, evening, and indeed through the night, preparing a series of questions and answers for the client and then determining whether or not we’d accept the interview, be it electronic or print. Sure, we still burn the midnight oil for clients when faced with a crisis but we had better be prepared before it occurs and we all know why.
Social media has changed the world, literally. The old saying that it takes years to build up a good reputation and that it can be destroyed overnight is no longer applicable. A reputation can be ruined in seconds, and what makes things worse is that it can happen justly or unjustly. This is why all companies must have a clearly articulated reputation management plan. We simply don’t have the luxury of time anymore. We can’t sit around, wait and ponder when a crisis occurs. Go ahead, sit around can’t sit around, wait and ponder when a crisis occurs. Go ahead, sit around and wait if you want to lose control of your message and credibility.
The “no-comment” approach used to work and don’t get me wrong, we do recommend it to our clients every now and then, but it’s clearly the exception and increasingly so, and certainly not the rule. Nowadays and more than ever, you’ve got to communicate to your audience swiftly, directly, effectively and sincerely. That’s what they’re looking for. It’s better to say something imperfectly than to say nothing at all. So the bottom line is if you think you can sleep on it when a crisis hits, think again. If you’re wrong, admit it and move on. You’ll be better off.
– Article written by Jean-Claude Torchia, President and Founder of Torchia Communications