Public Relations

by Debbie Leven

PR and my team

Certainly, staff feel good about their organisation if they see positive press and media coverage. It creates a ‘buzz’ and helps to motivate staff as well as generate a talking point with customers. Likewise, coverage can also be used

  • In communication with customers
  • To help keep staff informed about the organisation’s activities
  • To give staff a better understanding of what interests journalists
  • To motivate staff about the organisation – what it is doing and its plans.

Coverage also helps to demonstrate the value of using PR to help get the organisation’s messages across. As individuals build a profile in the press and media, they become recognised experts. This enhances their own credibility as well as that of the organisation and that, in turn, impacts on the perceptions of staff within the organisation.

What does my team need to know about PR?

Your team need to know about the important role of PR within the organisation – building and protecting profile. Staff also need to be aware of the issues, concerns and activities that will be of interest to the PR department or the PR adviser. It’s also useful for them to have a good idea of the ‘mechanics’ in relation to how PR works and how the PR department functions. In particular, the sign-off process for press releases, protocols in relation to speaking to the press and media, and incident reporting policies and procedures.

If your organisation has had bad publicity, don’t assume that the PR department has not been making efforts. You need to understand the facts, what has actually happened, and the extent to which any coverage might be justified. It may also be that the PR department has liaised with journalists but that the journalists have not decided to include those comments or that particular information.

When we get bad press

How do I cope, what do I do and what do I tell my team to do when there is lots of negative PR stuff floating around and our company is getting pilloried by the press?

No organisation is immune from bad press and media coverage. It may be that something has happened and the organisation needs to hold up its hands and accept responsibility for an incident. It may also be that consistent failings, or poor practice, have damaged the organisation’s reputation and it has become a ‘target’ for journalists. Seeing negative press and media coverage of your organisation can be de-motivating and, in some cases, upsetting. It can also generate rumour internally in its own right about the stability and future plans of the organisation. Negative coverage can arise for a number of reasons, including

  • Stakeholder/customer complaints
  • A crisis or incident
  • Comment from competitors/other organisations
  • Rumours
  • The actions of individual members of staff
  • Disputes with staff.

In a crisis

It’s likely that any organisation will, at some time, face a crisis or an incident. In this instance, the role of PR is to provide accurate and timely information and, where and if appropriate, acknowledge responsibility. The health and safety of customers, staff, suppliers and anyone else involved must always be a priority. Clearly, if the organisation is at fault, then responsibility should be acknowledged – the role of PR is to convey messages clearly and in a timely fashion.

When negative press and media coverage appears, there are certain aspects to consider:

  • The facts
  • Health and safety of customers, staff, other stakeholders
  • What can be done/changed to ensure this does not happen again
  • What has been done/is being done to counter the negative publicity.

Liaising with the PR department will help on these points. Many PR departments will consider internal communication as part of their ongoing efforts, particularly if there is negative press and media coverage. Typically, members of the PR team will support in communicating to staff on what has happened, what steps are being taken and how staff can help.

It is important to keep staff informed, so supporting the PR department in communicating with your team is key. Seek advice from the PR department about advising your team and handling any questions. It is also advisable to keep in constant contact with the PR department regarding any updated information as well as to highlight any questions or concerns your own team has.