Do you have your own PR person? Unless you’re a celebrity, the answer is probably no. (And if you are a celebrity, hi!) However, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to building a strong reputation—in your office and in your industry. You need to advocate for yourself. No one else is going to push for you to get that job, that raise, or even that project that you’re totally qualified to lead.
Now, I’m not talking about shooting off press releases to your office listserv about all your recent accomplishments. I’m talking about the PR basics, or as we insiders call them, four commandments from the PR bible. Read them, memorize them, and start living by them.
1. Know Your Audience
Whether you’re writing an email, developing a new program, or walking into a review, you have to understand who you’re talking to. This is called an audience-centered approach to communication. According to Business Communication Foundations, “An effective business message focuses on its audience.” You might be talking about yourself, but you have to communicate in a way that’s meaningful and respectful to your audience.
Key questions to ask when getting to know your audience: What’s my audience’s biggest struggle or hurdle? What’s the problem they most want solved? What are their dreams or aspirations?
Struggling for answers? A great way to get to know your audience, too, is to bring a list of questions and get them engaged. It’s as simple as asking, “What do you need most right now from me in my current role?”
2. Build Relationships
Face-to-face relationships still always elicit the best results—for PR people and for almost every other kind of professional. Email, text, phone calls, conference calls all have their place. According to a report prepared by The Harvard Business Review, in-person meetings are essential. Executives cite them as a necessary investment, saying face-to-face communication is “high impact.”
Scheduling these sit-downs can be as easy as requesting a meeting over lunch, instead of a conference call. Or, walking over to the graphic design team to explain your vision, instead of just writing it in an email. The more you can make it clear that you’re a living, breathing human (and not an email address that just exists to make requests), the more people will think of you as opportunities arise.
3. Be Proactive in a Crisis
The three rules of crisis communication are “be quick,” “be helpful,” and “be open.” A crisis in your daily workday could be something as common as sending an email to the wrong person, or as grave as a major financial miscalculation. While you can’t always fix the problem by following these three rules, you can often mitigate the aftermath.
Addressing the misstep head-on is almost always your best approach to avoid even further fallout. The faster you tell people what happened, the faster they can leap into action. Companies are advised to have a crisis communication plan in place so that everyone’s on the same page when disaster strikes. While you hopefully won’t be creating any disasters all on your own, it’s good to have your own plan in place so that if the worst happens, you can walk through the steps without freezing up. It’s as easy as knowing who you should contact first for particular problems.
How can you be helpful when you just created a problem for other people? Do whatever you can to alleviate the damage—whether that’s assisting with customer service inquiries or staying out of the IT team’s way as they try to salvage your computer.
Finally, be open. Decide how you’ll address the situation. (And it always needs to be addressed—even if you fixed it before anyone noticed.) According to the Institute for Public Relations’ best practices on crisis communication, the phrase “no comment” makes the organization—or you, in this case—look guilty, or at the very least, like you have something hide.
So, speak up and schedule a time with your boss or team to talk about what’s going on. Explain what’s being done to rectify the situation, and what will be done in the future to prevent it. Answer any questions, calmly. And deliver follow-up information, as needed. Remember, “I’ll get back to you on that,” is a viable response.
4. Follow Up, Stay in Contact
A PR pro will tell you that if you haven’t followed up, you haven’t pitched. Follow-up is the integral piece of building relationships and getting your message out there. While your follow-up will be different—you aren’t necessarily trying to get an article placed or a spokesperson interviewed—you can still utilize the tactic to raise your profile.
One key aspect of follow-up is consistency. Research on sales follow-up compiled by LinkedIn indicates the average person makes two attempts to reach a prospect, but 80% of sales are made on the fifth to 12th contact.
Consistent follow up not only ensures your message gets through, but also that you’re a person of integrity who stays true to your word. As Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue, explains, the smaller your “say-do gap”—the gap between what you say you’re going to do and what you actually do—the more trust you inspire in the people around you.
Not sure how to follow up without being annoying? Follow Elliott Bell’s tips for being pleasantly persistent.
So, there you go, four PR commandments that can help you build your own brand and get ahead at work. Which one of these PR commandments applies to your life at work right now? Which will you give a test drive? Tweet at me @AmandaBerlin.