Yesterday we were informed that the banking industry has regained profits bringing it close to the pre-crisis levels. The analysis of how they got there indicated that the bigger lenders performed better than those institutions who still preferred keeping funds to themselves as opposed to benefiting the still-struggling public. I am well aware of the substantial role PR took in reaching this point for the large banks who we used to - and some still do - envy for their success. But this PR tactic did not start overnight. Analysis and insight shows that they are beginning to seriously adopt "issues management" as an effective tool which allows companies to reposition their brand in the new business environment.
Until recently, large corporations with a prestige in certain niches used to avoid using the term "PR." They'd use "corporate communications" or "marcom" to describe the management function of initiating activities directed at building relationships with their different publics. They found PR to be something to avoid, or as something to simply use to promote news, rather than as a proactive, positive tool.
Issues management is a constant public podium over which a client expresses its position, policy and direction. Wouldn't such an open channel be great coverage for many brands? Company communications and media relations need not be limited to "special" news, events and announcements. Not every company runs special events on a daily or weekly basis. But every company holds a certain expertise it prides with. Use that expertise to address ongoing issues and news. Communicate positions on ongoing debates and interests.Here are some tips for "issues management'; a strictly-PR practice:
What do you stand for? Make a permanent list of topics and issues you have strong positioning on or are comfortable debating. This list will be the first step in starting your issues management practice.
2. What's on the public agenda? Whatever you do, make sure to be knowledgeable on what goes on in your industry. Have your ear to the ground so you don't miss out on any opportunity to voice your opinion as an expert. Issues management is a tool directed at reputation building.
3. Media relations: this is where you materialize the opportunity. Learn the ways to pitch the media or hire a PR pro. The media often works in a specific way, often with a "gatekeeper" in charge of screening the timely stories from the irrelevant or inadequately written ones. Another way to communicate your issue management contents is through a company blog. Use it professionally and as a "issues management' channel and you'll find it valuable to your reputational positioning too.
4. Build your reputation: if you expressed your opinion and drew attention from the media it is useless unless you build a reputation around it. The "public" element in "Public Relations' is key for results. If you don't share and disseminate it widely enough it would not do as much for your reputation. Communicate it out, and use various media channels to do so. These may include social and online media, internal publications and newsletters.
5. Reputation management: Repeating this procedure over time will build your reputation and online presence too so next time a potential client, business partner or industry players search you up online they will find numerous position statements, news-based communications and professional development position of you and your company. It is priceless and invaluable to position yourself using your natural expertise.
Issues management is now known to be an integral part of a crisis management plan, a positioning and branding tool and mainly a best PR practice that is often neglected. Perhaps you could use issues management to make gain more out of the time spent following the news.
Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S. Named one of the top "40 Under 40" by PR Week & Advertising Age, Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and may be reached via email at Ronn@5wpr.com, or twitter @rtorossian5wpr