PR: Why It’s Better to Tell the Truth Than to Twist It
A lot of people hear “public relations” and they think spin and deception. But that’s absolutely not what PR is. The reality is, most people don’t really know what PR is and what PR pros do for their clients.
In short, public relations is the act of advancing or maintaining a positive point of view about a brand. It is accomplished by being purposeful about the flow of information between the brand and the public, usually through the media.
Public relations professionals do a lot. They can help soften blows during bad financial quarters, choose the right words to keep employees engaged, guide companies through crises, or be a resource for news stories. But, they aren’t there to lie for you. In fact, lying (or bending the truth if you prefer) is actually one of the worst things a brand can do—especially in a crisis.
Here are three reasons why good PR always relies on the truth.
Because Reputations Matter
Almost every brand wants to be used as experts in stories or industry publications. But earning that level of clout doesn’t happen overnight. Brand reputation is key to being featured in news or trade publications. If a brand wants to be used as a source for news stories, they need to have an excellent track record of providing accurate information clearly and concisely. Here’s a simple rule to remember about reputations: in the age of “fake news,” be an honest and reliable source.
Additionally, When contacting the press, be prepared to answer questions, have statistics or resources to back up your claims, and always be friendly and courteous. While polite gestures won’t get you too far on their own, being rude can do a number on a brand’s reputation with journalists.
Because Brand Loyalty is Key
It seems so simple, but too many brands don’t heed the message: customers trust brands that are honest. That’s a big deal. Because with brand trust, comes brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is the tendency for consumers to buy from the same brands repeatedly, rather than trying their competitors. In a recent study, 59% of U.S. consumers reported that once they’re loyal to a brand, they will remain loyal to that brand for the rest of their lives.
That means forever. Brand loyalty is someone who’s ridden Harley Davidson’s for forty years, that uncle who only buys Chevy trucks or the regulars who go to the same bar or restaurant every weekend. It’s also those parents who find the only type of diaper or lotion that works for their newborn and stick with it for all their kids until they outgrow the need. That’s brand loyalty. It’s very real, very powerful, and it’s built on trust and reliability.
Maintaining trust is especially important as brands plan for the future. Research by The Consumer Goods Forum in 2019 found that younger generations are increasingly looking for honest and authentic brands and there is a huge gap between what they want, and what they perceive brands as providing:
…while almost 90% of Millennials and Gen Z personally care if they receive honest information about products, only 42% of Gen Z think that brands care about providing that honest information (the number is 66% among Millennials). This overwhelming demand for honesty led [reserachers] to name Gen Z “The Honest Generation.”
Because Someone Else Will Set the Tone if You Don’t
When you push things off, talk around serious problems, or don’t give straight answers, others tend to fill in the blanks for you—and usually, not to your benefit. Sometimes, that means rumors will spread. Other times it simply means journalists will state that a company refused to answer a question or did not directly answer it. In that situation, even if you have nothing to hide, suddenly, people may start to think you do.
Consider Boeing and the 737 Max crisis. Boeing insisted their aircraft was safe instead of immediately grounding them and releasing a holding statement in light of the situation. Soon after, reports that pilots had been reporting issues for a long period of time destroyed Boeing’s credibility on the matter. Suddenly, it was up to airlines themselves to remove Boeing aircraft from use to protect their own brands.
What can be learned from the Boeing situation is that honesty would have served them much better in the beginning. It’s important for brands to tell the truth so that they can set the tone for how the news will be perceived. By releasing information that is untrue or making claims that don’t add up, credibility is quickly diminished.
Honest Public Relations
Public relations professionals don’t exist to help companies lie their way out of a serious problem. Instead, PR is about planning ahead, using the right words, and guiding clients to make the best decisions for the present and the future.
If your brand is in need of public relations—and you like honesty—reach out anytime. You can email me at MBakle@WeTellYourStory.com.