Despite having served many clients and employers as a communications expert, I tend to shy away from writing pithy advice columns. Public relations has never seemed like “rocket science” to me. That said, some basic truths bear repeating over and over. So, based on my 25+ years as a policy aide, news editor, and PR consultant, here are my “Top 5” principles of excellent PR:
Always be truthful. No amount of clever word-smithing or apologizing will ever win back a disillusioned audience. Creating and maintaining your credibility is a long-term, persistent effort; losing that credibility takes only an instant. Marshal the facts to make your best case, but never mislead.
Keep the message simple, and find what resonates. Time and time again, I have seen the power of a well-chosen word, phrase or sound bite to capture the essence of an argument in an instant and get audience members nodding “yes.” For example, the best argument for a final transition to digital TV broadcasting was not, “It’s good for the US economy, and it frees up prime spectrum for public safety and other uses.” What won the day was, “Digital TV means better TV for everyone – more free channels, better picture and sound – and it’s good for the economy and local communities.” So keep it simple, and find the arguments that will resonate most powerfully with your audience.
Win over heads and hearts. As a corollary to #2, I tend to gravitate to the best facts and figures to tell a story, but I’ve also learned to play up emotional human interest angles – hopes, fears, frustrations. Find a resonant message that appeals to both head and heart, and you’re on the way to having impact and influence.
Pictures and design drive the point home. Lesson #2 also applies to the “look and feel” of any communications vehicle. Images and design do speak louder than words. Be sure to invest in beautiful, arresting imagery and design if you want people to notice, stop, and read what you have to say.
Quality beats quantity. Unless a client needs to reach millions of consumers and has deep pockets to spend on broadcast advertising and blockbuster events, most PR efforts must operate within very limited budgets and make tradeoffs between “wants” and “must haves.” In today’s environment of information overload and niche-audience media, it’s more important than ever to have a tailored strategy to reach the “right” people with the “right” message at the “right” time – even if the overall effort seems relatively small.
My team and I will continue to offer our thoughts and insights in future blog posts here. In the meantime, feel free to comment below with what you believe to be the most important core principles of PR.
And if your company faces a PR opportunity or challenge, contact me today for a no-obligation, confidential assessment.