Effective PR: It's About People

Peter TerHorst
 


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The best PR agency in the world is worthless if it fails to remember one fundamental truth –- It’s About People.

Many PR types lose sight of this simple axiom in the face of the technology onslaught that constantly inundates the market with new-and-improved products and services. Whether we ask for them or not, high-tech companies are constantly giving us trick new bells and whistles in the all-or-nothing game of one-upmanship necessary to maintain and expand marketshare. PR novices and seasoned pros alike are often bewildered as they seek to understand their client’s latest offerings. A company’s good name relies on the ability of their PR people to make sense of these technologies and craft messages that resonate with consumers. And yet, the zoomiest high-tech product won’t stand out in the public’s mind if the firm fails to draw attention to the people responsible for the product’s design.

Successful companies are led by visionary founders or executives who inspire those around them to achieve -– the R&D and manufacturing engineers, the marketers, the customer service people, even the accountants. When crafting core PR messages, it is critically important to get inside the heads of the people who designed the latest widgets so that the product copy reflects their vision. Just as important, their voices need to be heard through written quotes and even public appearances. Why?

Brand image. As consumers in the modern-day medina, we want to believe that we do business with people who care about us, with organizations that reflect our values. Our purchases are an extension of ourselves and we want them to somehow matter. If a company is faceless, we aren’t going to take the time to figure out who they are; we are going shopping at the next kiosk. When an entire industry loses its identity, their products become simple commodities and we are left to ask our friends for advice and price shop.

Need examples? Airline companies today struggle with the public’s frustration born out of confusing fare structures, long delays, cramped seating, and poor customer service. It is hard to believe there was a time not so long ago when we all dressed in suits and dresses whenever we flew and gladly put up with numerous irregularities; flying was special and we were treated that way. Today, we are reduced to shopping for the lowest airline price. And yet, at the end of the flight, many of us will climb into cars that cost thousands of dollars more than basic transportation because we believe in the manufacturer’s publicized commitment to high-performance, safety engineering or fuel conservation.

People matter to consumers, and it’s not just in regard to for-profit companies. Non-profits are particularly susceptible to the capriciousness of human philanthropy. When we give our dollars to a cause, it has to matter. If we suspect the sincerity of the organization, if it seems to be foundering with no one at the helm, or if we doubt that our donations are reaching the intended beneficiaries, we immediately suspend our support. And then we tell everyone we know, creating irreparable harm to the organization’s image.

Because people matter and no two are the same, every organization, no matter how large or small, is unique by definition. Herein lies the secret to every successful PR effort. When you tap into the distinctive character of an organization, an effective PR strategy awaits.

Peter terHorst is president of SymPoint Communications. For more information, visit http://www.sympoint.com

© 2005 SymPoint Communications. All rights reserved. You are free to use this material in whole or in part in print, on a web site or in an email newsletter, as long as you include a complete attribution, including a live web site link. Please notify me where the material will appear.

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