Paying Attention to the News
In public relations, it’s important to pay attention to the news as it pertains to your business. Although you don’t need to respond to the majority of news stories, when a topic gets hot, it’s worth asking yourself, “Should my organization take a position on this? Do we have policies that protect us from being swept up in the public frenzy? Can we provide leadership?”
Take the #metoo movement, for example. Have you taken an honest look at the culture of your organization? Have you reviewed your policies with regard to sexual harassment? Do you have any employees with a reputation for inappropriate behavior, proven or not? Times are changing and if you have issues to resolve with regard to how people are treated in your organization, now is the time to address them.
Times are changing and if you have issues to resolve with regard to how people are treated in your organization, now is the time to address them.
If you have a culture that treats men and women equally, one that deals with sexual harassment in a fair and transparent way, one that protects those at the bottom of the corporate ladder as well as the top, the #metoo movement may be an opportunity to provide leadership and earn your brand/organization the kudos it deserves.
As always when it comes to communication, it is critical to consider all your audiences, both internal and external. If you need to improve your organization’s culture as it relates to a high profile news topic, always start with internal communication. If necessary, bring in someone who is viewed as unbiased by leaders and rank-and-file employees to gather information and complete a thorough assessment of where your organization needs to improve. Share results, goals and how you plan to measure success with a wide cross-section of your employees.
If you are neutral on a given issue: you have policies in place and treat folks fairly, but it isn’t a topic you care to allocate resources to, it may be worthwhile to simply send an all-staff email that reinforces your company’s position on the issue.
If you want to take a leadership position, you can incorporate the topic into your marketing and public relations efforts in several ways. Again, using the #metoo movement as an example, you could write a press release with a statement in support of women who have suffered from sexual harassment. If your product or service helps these women in any way, highlight it. You could make a charitable donation to organizations that help victims of sexual harassment and/or assault and encourage others to follow your lead. You could offer to create a specific product or repackage a service that donates a specific percentage of proceeds to the cause. You could team up with like-minded organizations to publicize the issue–blog about it, create advertising that focuses on the issue, hold press conferences, and ask employees for ideas on how your organization can do more.
A couple words of caution before you run head-long into a mess: first, unless you are confident that you have a spotless reputation on a given topic, be careful about holding yourself up as an example. It’s better to be neutral than to have people believe in you as their champion, only to be let down. Second, be sure you are responding to a real issue and not a tempest in a teapot. Confirm that the news story you read is from a legitimate source and only respond if it is an issue that matters to you. It’s fine to benefit from genuinely good work, but you don’t want to be that company that is constantly trying to make every issue about them.
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