A little less conversation, a little more action

One of the major mistunderstandings among executives regarding PR is that they consider it a tool to make things look good (or: better than they are). Most PR practicioners have heard requests like “how can we make this look like a big innovation?” (when in fact it’s just a new handle or color); “we need to come across more environmentally-friendly” (while top management is just beefing up their luxury business car fleet); “let’s do some employer branding” (while drastic restructuring measures are eliminating jobs big time).

The same misunderstanding, strangely, can be found in a lot of agencies who just take the existing corporate behavior as a given and present communication plans to make it look shiny and neat. This is a short-term strategy, at best.

Since, in fact, PR is not primarily about talking, but about acting. My simple definition: PR means to DO things that people will TALK about.

Think about it – it works both ways, positive and negative. In order to be seen as an innovative corporation, you have to be innovative in what you do. In order to be perceived as a leader in sustainability, you better act sustainably in all parts of your business, from cradle to grave. In order to create relevant word-of-mouth, you better DO something that is extraordinary, unexpected, funny – and not just claim to be. The equation sure works in the negative; do something wrong, and certainly you’ll be talked about – that’s PR as well.

So, just trying to ‘communicate’ your way to a positioning won’t work; you have to ‘act’ your way towards it. At best, pure ‘PR communication’ might just be ignored. At worst, people will confront it with your actual behaviour – then prepare for lots of PR you would not necessarily want.

Every PR approach must start with changing the reality, not the furnish. If you’re not willing to question your behaviour, your PR budgets will just be a waste.

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