Written by: Minari Shah
About the author: Director-Public Relations at Amazon India
I have long enjoyed, even loved my job, but one of the things that often bothered me was the definition of PR as spin. It rarely seemed to align with the work I have now done for almost two decades. So let me actually speak of what we do, to try and set right some of these misconceptions; to show how, PR is increasingly one of the most important influences on companies to do right.
Corporate reputation was always important – what’s changed is the extent of repercussions when this reputation slides down. Growing awareness especially among the younger generation, the rise of social media, a more demanding customer have all meant that companies must be more vigilant than ever about their reputation. And this repute is a function of what a company does or does not do in a consistent, ongoing journey, where different internal and external stakeholders amplify their perceptions to create/ impact reputation. Any real needle-moving perception change (for good) is when the company does all or many things right that PR must help communicate in an ongoing journey to multiple audiences, but increasingly also influence to build those initiatives.
A good PR practitioner protects or defends the corporate reputation by dealing in facts. Depending on the company, context, industry, issue etc., this may be done proactively or reactively. Addressing misconceptions or wrongful allegations is an important part of how we address corporate reputation. The ways to do so could range from offering the right facts, explaining the situation & context, to at times offering a mea culpa if/ when indeed something went wrong. When something feels not right, most PR teams I know immediately flag the risk and look to mitigate by advocating a change of direction, not cover-up or spin.
This is the most important factor in the modern importance of PR as it is beginning to influence business leadership before a crisis can come up or in many cases, for proactively doing good. In short, you look around the corners, anticipate issues and plan for crises of course but in many cases, influence the business to do the right thing irrespective of crises. Environment & sustainability, diversity, customer trust, community engagement are all important aspects of corporate reputation and invariably, PR professionals worth their salt are pushing the business teams to do it right. So not only is PR the first port of call in a crisis but is often driving robust mechanisms to proactively drive positive corporate reputation – through meaningful initiatives. This is what makes what was always a challenging function now become an even more meaningful leadership role that is business strategic as well as personally immensely satisfying – because PR can make a real difference.