The public relations arena is a fast-paced, high-stakes world. If you are entrusted to represent a company to the media and present messaging to the public, you have an enormous responsibility to not only be factually accurate, but to also be persuasive. This has only become trickier in recent years with the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle.
That said, most of the traditional principles of good PR still apply. Still, it can be helpful to review and refresh the basics, as well as consider some angles you may not be familiar with. This is useful whether you are the one presenting the information and taking the questions, or in charge of finding the right person to do this.
Stick to the facts
Let’s move past the surface and look at substance. While your appearance is important, it is nothing compared to your integrity. If you abuse the trust of the media and public, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to gain it back, which will effectively make you useless at your job. The good news is that this situation is entirely avoidable if you approach messaging with a few simple guidelines.
First, make sure the crux of your statement revolves around facts. Think about law enforcement news conferences. An officer usually dispassionately presents objective facts about an interaction. They are very careful (in both statements and questions) not to speculate and use terms like “allegedly” or “apparently” if the facts are not clear. This is a perfect blueprint for PR pros in any industry.
While part of your job is to spin facts in the most positive light for your organization, it is best to do this by coming armed with favorable facts and statistics that support your position. What you don’t want to do is make broad statements not supported by data, or worse, make things up. Remember that it’s okay to say “I don’t have that information at this time, but I can get it for you” if you don’t have an answer in front of you. It’s also perfectly acceptable to say, “That would be purely speculative at this point, so I don’t want to get into that,” if asked a question without a clear answer.
Steer clear of political statements (and avoid accidental ones)
As a rule, politics are bad for business. While companies should always support worthwhile causes, we are living in a difficult time where seemingly everything has become politicized. This, of course, creates many potential headaches for public relations managers. You may think you are saying something innocuous, only to find it is misinterpreted as support for a political party, philosophy, or movement.
So how can you navigate this treacherous political terrain? Again, the best solution is to stick to facts. If your company is organizing an initiative aimed to assist the community or a disadvantaged population, make it your own, rather than affiliating yourself with a national effort, unless you’ve fully vetted them and found absolutely nothing controversial. Also, when preparing statements, bring in a trusted colleague to help you sweep through it for any hint of politically-charged buzzwords or phrases that can be considered supportive or antagonistic towards any specific hot-button topic.
Make a good impression with your appearance
Like it or not, there is a degree of superficiality that comes with the turf of being on-camera. That doesn’t mean PR professionals need to invest thousands of dollars on wardrobe, go on extreme diets, or invest in plastic surgery. It just means that you want to present yourself with a sharp, clean appearance.
Your skin is the biggest area of focus here. A daily vitamin D supplement, along with plenty of sleep and water will help you look well-rested, alert, and healthy. This should also boost your confidence, which will only help your audience have faith in you and what you have to say.
PR is ever-changing, fast moving, and always challenging. Accept and embrace the challenge by keeping these fundamentals in mind. This should help you articulate clearly, confidently, and effectively!