Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: The Importance of Clarity

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Think back to Public Relations 101. When you discuss any type of communication tactic (whether it is a press release, tweet, memo, etc.) a simple rule applies: remember your audience and be sure to keep it clear and concise. As we integrate new technology into the PR profession, the way we communicate will undoubtedly continue to change, but it’s important to remember that the basic rules will still apply.

In this week’s Friday Five – PRSA’s take on the week’s biggest news stories – we’ll discuss Chevrolet’s emoji press release and share four other PR lessons.

Here’s what we learned this week:

1) Just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it’s good for PR

As PR professionals, we’ve learned to adopt all sorts of new technology. We’ve learned how to condense an entire pitch into a single 140 character tweet with room to spare. We’ve learned that GIFs are sometimes more effective than text. We’ve even learned how to use Instagram to reflect our brand’s identity. But just because we can use these new tools doesn’t always mean we should.

This week, Chevrolet issued a press release comprised entirely of emojis, including the dateline and the boiler plate. The brand then posted videos with comedian Norm MacDonald translating the release. The entire event reeked of a “PR stunt” and seemed rather pointless in the long run. The goal of the release may have been to make the brand look hip, but it seems like it simply confused consumers. Clarity should always be paramount in communication.

2) Retail giants lead the fight against the Confederate flag

In the wake of the tragic shooting murders of church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina, last week, many have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from government properties, including the South Carolina statehouse. Not only were politicians calling for the end to flying the Confederate flag, large retailers also joined in.

Wal-Mart, Sears, eBay, Target, Amazon and Etsy.com all removed Confederate flags and items with the flag from their websites and stores. These decisions were made as the stores saw an uptick in purchases of these items, however, according to a CNBC article, a Public Policy Polling survey taken in the shooting aftermath showed “Americans opposed flying the Confederate flag over government buildings by a 3-to-1 margin.” Public relations professionals are often tasked with making suggestions that aren’t “bottom line-friendly” at the outset, but are more in line with their audience’s sentiments. Often, the right PR decision, while not focused on monetary gain, will help brands grow their business in the long run.

3) PR is far from dead

For an organization that monitors chatter about the public relations profession, we regularly read articles about the demise of various PR practices and sometime the profession itself. We have read more “PR is dead” stories than you can imagine and somehow, someway, we are all still here and thieving.

The latest to herald PR’s demise: Robert Phillips, author ofTrust Me, PR is Dead.” According to Financial Times writer Henry Mance, Phillips title was making the point that PR is “inadequate in today’s complex world.” Yet, each week we point to numerous situations where PR would have helped organizations avoid the most basic communication mistakes.

Are we all zombies or is PR truly as dead as Phillips would like his readers to think? Take to the comments to provide your opinion.

4) Words matter, especially when you’re running for President of the United States

During the speech announcing his run to become the next President of the United States, Donald Trump said the following about Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” he said, adding, “and some, I assume, are good people.” Naturally there was backlash to this harsh statement.

Univision, the largest Spanish language broadcaster in the US, has decided not to air Trump’s Miss USA pageant.  Univision’s response didn’t end there. In a statement, the network has decided to sever all ties with Trump. Still, Trump has stood by his statement. Trump’s poor communication and messaging are without a doubt the biggest PR fails of the week. We can only imagine that his PR team will be working overtime to help dig him out of yet another disaster.

5) Google (yet again) releases new tools to help us do our jobs

While meant for journalists, Google News Lab will likely also help all in the communication industry. According to PR Daily’s Kevin Allen, content creators can now access new extensive data, including an expansion to Google Trends. The tool will reinforce what we already know in the public relations industry: to be a trusted expert, you must do more than tout your own products and services. Rather, you should fit your brand in where it makes sense and back your claims up with useful information.

Agreed? We hope this new tool helps us prove our ability to share useful information with the audiences that desire it most.

About the author

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR

Rosanne Mottola, APR, is public relations manager for the Public Relations Society of America. She is an adjunct professor of public relations at St. John’s University, Staten Island. Mottola obtained a master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from New York University in 2010. You can connect with her on Twitter @RoeMoPR or on LinkedIn.

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