Public relations and PR sounds fancy. Which is a trick that PR people know how to do well – make the unglamourous look glamourous.
But taken down to its prime purpose, PR is literally how you or your business relates to the public and vice versa. Who that audience is and how you want them to relate is all up for discussion. In real life it looks like this: governments want to evoke trust and confidence from their constituents. The villain in a wrestling match wants to evoke disdain and bloodlust out of his or her viewers. A beer company wants to evoke feelings of coolness and loyalty from its customers. These examples are extreme in their differences, but they’re all underpinned by one thing – PR.
In hindsight, I think I got into public relations because of Edina Monsoon in Absolutely Fabulous. I know the show was meant to be a parody, but when I was watching it, I just nodded along the whole time thinking ‘yep, that is exactly how I want to live my life – stoli and bolli all the way’! I can’t say AbFab is far off from the truth of how PR can be on the inside, and I’m ok with that!
The one bit Eddie and Patsy were a little blurry about when it came to PR was what I think are its foundation principles: common sense and good manners.
With these two sentinels guiding your business’ communications, you can be sure you won’t be steered off-course where you wake up in the middle of the night thinking – ‘OMG, I should not have said that online!’.
Common sense in PR is adaptable to whatever feels good to you. If you took a practical example where there’s been a natural disaster with fatalities in your city, then your common sense may warn you off posting something that looks insensitive to what’s happening around you. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules on this, every person has their own inner guide, but staying in tune with that as you post will help keep you out of the weeds.
Good manners in PR is a little more straight forward. If you’re about to say something really topical online – to the point of mean – then cross-check that against this: would I want this on the front page of paper? If I don’t want my name next to it, then I know immediately I really shouldn’t be posting it.
Good manners is also key when it comes to building your online community. If someone shouts out about your brand, thank them, if they share your post, follow them or like the post, and if someone leaves a comment, then it’s good manners to acknowledge that with a response. It’s exactly the same as what you would do in the real world; if you were at a party and someone said ‘nice shoes’, you’d probably say thanks, not turn on one heel and leave the person hanging!
When I feel a little ancy about a post I’ve created and I’m hesitant to hit send, I sit back and think, am I being guided by common sense and good manners here? If it squares up, then I know I’m good to go.