PR in a trap

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Old PR ways are not working anymore. The changes in companies’ environment are too big for PR not to change itself. Public opinion is extremely hostile. PR people feel it themselves. Anyone, who reads companies statements in the Internet and comments below them, can see it. And still everything stays the same.

So, what are these changes in companies’ environment exactly?

  • Extreme transparency (nakedness) of organizations in public space
  • Blurring differences between internal and external communication
  • Increasing demands of target groups – they expect authenticity and honesty
  • Decrease of trust towards business – unprecedented cynicism of recipients

These are not just minor shifts one can easily ignore.

So, what does it mean?

  • Certainty that every error or inconsistency will be widely publicized
  • Employees as a threat, but also as a chance for company’s image
  • Burying one’s head in the sand or little convincing explanations are a dead-end
  • Painted PR and CSR give nothing – they can be even a source of a crisis

Increasingly more companies in the world notice these phenomena and change their approach to external relations – the customer becomes no longer the subject of manipulation.

And how it is in Poland? If we follow the daily press and read the Internet users’ comments, or if we look at our own experience, we won’t see any changes in a reasonable direction. It is also confirmed by results of many surveys.

The level of trust towards companies is tragically low. Yearly Edelman Trust Barometer shows that, when the global level of trust stabilized after the major fall, in Poland it has fallen even lower (from 56% to 45%), and the general trust index is the lowest in Poland in year and the lowest among all countries analyzed in the survey (it has fallen from 48% to 35% – Russia’s index is 37%).

‘Public relations’ term has negative connotations and even PR professionals are perfectly aware of that. Results of the survey conducted by European Association of Communication Directors three years ago revealed that 64% of professionals responsible for PR in Polish companies think that PR has negative connotations in mass media (the worst result in Europe, where the average is 42%). Despite such terrifying results nothing has been done to improve the situation – on the contrary, it gets even worse.

And what’s this trap about?

Surely, many PR professional would like to change their approach to communication in their companies. However, it requires convincing executives, that it doesn’t work anymore, that only using new media without changing the mindset is not a modern PR. They need data that justify changes, and not only retouches, examples that appeal to imagination, but, what’s the most important, they need the clear proposal of new direction and new communication strategy based on new assumptions. The effect should be a new PR-Management Board contract that would help people responsible for communication start to live again. But above all else they need courage.

So, have courage!