"PR: A Valuable
Tool in Good Times and Bad"
Hilary Kaye, President, Hilary Kaye Associates,
When companies are doing well, its often standard procedure
to let the world know. Press releases, newsletters, bylined articles,
speaking engagements these are all ways that companies deliver
positive corporate news to their various audiences.
On the flip side, if a company has
a downturn, its industry is in a tailspin or the overall economy
is sagging, many companies "hunker down" with the attitude of waiting
out the storm. They may have unexpectedly poor earnings, decreased
sales revenues, sudden layoffs all things that a company
likes to keep low-key. They believe that by keeping an overall low
profile, the press and thereby their publics will
not be fully aware of their situation.
Its certainly true that you dont
want to trumpet bad news. If you are publicly held, you only want
to disclose what is mandatory based on SEC regulations (private
companies, of course, have more latitude regarding disclosure of
anything of a negative nature). However, its also true that
positive stories can help reduce the impact of bad news. Many companies
fail to take advantage of positive occurrences at their companies
that could generate positive media coverage. Of course, if your
bad news resembles anything like that occurring at Enron, all bets
Lets take a look
at some positive media opportunities that companies have even when
they are in the midst of a downturn.
First, some companies have established
relationships with reporters who call for comments on industry-related
news. These relationships are invaluable and help the companies
receive better coverage when they have news of their own to report.
They also help keep the company name, and the executives names,
in the news as industry experts. Unfortunately, we frequently see
that if the company is experiencing any trouble at all, these quotable
sources suddenly become unquotable. They dont return reporters
phone calls and they turn down interviews obtained by the PR department
This usually is the wrong tack to take.
Its a good idea to maintain relationships with reporters who
have been good to the company in the past. Youll need their
support again. Be honest if they ask about the companys difficulties,
but realize that they can also help carry the companys positive
messages. Unless a company is in the midst of a genuine crisis,
maintaining the impression that company executives are knowledgeable
on industry matters should be done as a matter of course.
Second, if your company hasnt
established relationships with reporters either with trade
press media or business media this may be the perfect time
to do so. All of the key executives
are fair game
for relationships of this type. You may want to ask your PR team
to facilitate these for you.
Third, adopt the attitude that positive
press is good for the company. Your PR team (in-house or contracted)
can be aggressive in finding situations that could lead to great
trade press and sometimes even business/financial media. While care
needs to be taken about revealing proprietary information, theres
a lot of room left for stories that do good, not harm.
Some stories might relate to unusual
or highly successful employees; new product stories; unique manufacturing
capabilities; customer application stories; humanitarian activities,
On a related subject,
it is also important to not pull back on employee communications.
If your company has had regular newsletter communication with employees
either through a printed document or email dont
stop. Dont let internal troubles stop this communication channel,
which is critical in keeping employee morale up and business going
If the normal news you publish is not
the kind of news youd like to publish now, the newsletter
editor should be directed to go looking for positive stories that
would boost morale. A sudden newsletter stop is a red flag to employees
and should be avoided.
OK, so whats the bottom line?
If youve read all the way to the bottom, youve learned
some of the reasons why your companys media relations program
should continue through thick and thin. The next time your company
appears ready to retreat into a self-imposed quiet period, think
again. You may be able to generate some much-needed positive PR.
(Hilary Kaye is founder and president
of Hilary Kaye Associates, Inc.
(HKA), a public relations and marketing communications firm
that provides customized services to emerging growth and established
companies. Hilary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (714) 426-0444.)
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