Trust is like a piece of paper. Once it’s crumpled, it will never be perfect again. PR professionals pride themselves on their ability to build a brand’s trustworthiness through awareness, key messaging and influencing audiences. We believe that our role is an essential factor to the overall process of driving revenue through relationships with our audiences. In an ironic twist however, public relations is an industry that has always battled with its own reputation. PR professionals have to constantly find ways to “PR” themselves and show value to a client or senior management. It is something that my colleagues and I have simply grown to accept as our careers evolve.
In PR, regardless of whether you still use the outdated advertising value equivalent, share of voice or cost per contact, the focus on quantitative data to show PR value is widely considered to be best practice. But analytics aside, are there other ways to show industry outsiders the value of PR to a business?
All you have to do is look at what happened to Pepsi and United Airlines this past week. When an event quickly becomes a viral topic thanks to social media, the value of having a strong investment in public relations truly shines. Take United for example. A bad situation simply got worse with the lack of an immediate apology and misinformation. Many have criticized United’s flip flopping in their responses and their lack of empathy towards their customers on that flight, snowballing into the PR nightmare that we have all seen unravel. I’m sure you’ve seen many articles already detailing the PR shortcomings of United’s response to this unfortunate situation.
Personally, I view PR nightmares like Pepsi and United as perfect examples of why having good PR is important for any successful brand. You don’t really know what you miss until you need it. No quantitative insights were needed to see where Pepsi and United went wrong in their respective manners. What the public cared about was the lack of human empathy and judgement that these brands showed. PR is all about understanding how to align a brand with human emotions and positively influence their psychology in the buyer decision process. This is the true value of PR.
So the next time a friend asks about the purpose of public relations and what its function is to an organization, try pointing out the latest PR nightmares that are trending as a reminder. Not only do we put out fires but we help prevent them as well. Unlike a can of Pepsi, trust is not something that is given, but earned through good old PR.