Public relations is not an industry for the faint of heart. While many professionals may see public relations as a necessary cost rather than an investment, often it is the PR firm that is responsible for the polishing of a formerly unsavory image. Taking on a client who needs some image polishing can be challenging for even the most consummate professional, but the rewards can pay off in spades.
Let’s say a company has suffered from negative public image recently. Of course, it is at the discretion of the public relations agency or professional on whether or not to take on the client. Certain actions that lead to negative perception may be more damaging for a PR firm to take on, for example an instance of sexual misconduct or a hate crime. However, if a company or leader has made some mistakes that can be fixed, it might be time to hire a good public relations firm.
A 2016 study of public relations and its effect on a company’s image was conducted by Anas Alhadid and Batool Ahmmad Qaddomi. Several hypotheses were tested on the effects of elements such as social media on a company’s image, and the results show that public relations is instrumental in turning an image and public perception around when done correctly.
When taking on a client in need of an image update, some basic digging is required to determine the right strategy with which to achieve the ideal outcome: a much more positive public perception.
Finding the Issue
There is always more than one side to every story, so the best thing a public relations professional can do is to arm themselves with as much information as they can find. Let’s say a company has come into recent hot water due to the personal indulgences of its CEO. This individual has been known to make brash public remarks and is often seen partying and engaging in questionable activities. This has led to the company’s image being a bit tarnished, but they also value the CEO’s talent for his job.
The first thing to do is to gather as much information on the backstory as possible. The responsibility lies on the public relations firm to know as much about their clients as possible – the good and the bad.
Use the Positives
Once all information is gathered, the public relations team can set about working on turning that image around. This may involve meeting with the CEO and/or the executive team to identify ways in which the CEO can take some of the heat off. Perhaps he needs to cool it on the party front and needs a bit of media coaching so that he doesn’t spout off at an inopportune moment.
From there, the PR firm can set about aligning the brand and its core values with the right outlets. Utilizing social media to instead focus on core values and how the company is working to fulfill those each day can be useful. Having the CEO or person in question demonstrate changed behavior, whether through a quieter lifestyle or through genuine actions, will also speak volumes for the company rather than just publishing press releases with apologies.
Turning a brand or person’s image around can be an uphill battle. This process also requires an amount of personal investment from the client, as half of the battle is showing authenticity. However, a success story of rebuilding image can speak volumes about the skill of the public relations firm. Be sure to vet all clients to ensure that their case is one that the firm is willing and able to take on, and all of the hard work just may pay off in the end.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations.