A public relations practitioner is often the doomsayer in the room.
It’s not because we’re naturally morose or negative people.
(In fact, we’re naturally positive people who believe that our clients deserve attention and that we’ll produce stellar communication strategies. Someone has to believe.)
We’re doomsayers because we are tasked with building and protecting reputation – and that often means forecasting what might possibly tarnish that reputation. We’re also tasked with staying abreast of any issues which may affect clients and managing any crises.
My default position is to be optimistic, to encourage client ideas, to have solutions on-hand, and to embark on a positive PR strategy which I can be confident about. But at the same time, I know it would be remiss of me not to don my Black Hat (thank you Edward de Bono’s six hats) and caution clients about possible outcomes.
What does this mean in practice?
The most experienced PR professionals will do the following (especially when they are full-time and in-house):
- During strategy meetings, ask “what if this goes wrong?” This question can be applied to everything from the appointment of a new celebrity ambassador, to a new brand name, a partnership with another organisation, a change in suppliers, a promotional launch in a public place and more. So much more!
- Undertake continual environmental scanning and advise the client of issues in their sector (and how to manage them)
- Devise a crisis communications plan (including a list of potential scenarios and how these will be managed)
- Check, double-check and triple-check that any of your PR events have a safety plan, appropriate government permissions, a fall-back if the weather turns bad. And so much more!
- Maintain good relationships with other managers particularly in Risk Management, Human Resources and any legislative management roles. A PR professional will want to ensure these other professionals are ticking all the boxes and, together, helping to manage an ethical organisation which can be proud of its reputation.
The irony is, that while PR professionals work hard to avoid issues and crises, if they do occur they can be quite exciting and rewarding to manage. But that’s a story for another day …