You may not be relevant to all the stakeholders all the time – PR trends for the new year
We may have suffered from a couple of ego and heart strokes due to the prevalent unpredictability in the political and economic arenas during 2019, but resilience has taught us to get up, and show up for 2020. We’re all still here! Think about your 2019 highlights and see them as the gift box you’ll open this year, to draw from and grow from, and to add to.
Thus it seems apt that now when we are starting the year, we do so by sharing some of the invaluable media learnings we have made during 2019.
It’s more comfortable to be too busy and to postpone, but it’s not sustainable. Those that advocate for cause, not mere strategic alliances or nodding-of-heads when passing in best attire. You’ll see each other at your best and at your worst, and that’s OK. The MTC anti-gender violence campaign went the extra mile in creating awareness, and starting conversations. The third parties involved were truly committed and their sincere belief in the importance of the cause echoed across media platforms long after the initial conversations were started. Bringing cause-to-heart is part of connecting business to lasting relationships.
Stay in contact:
Aim to engage, do not merely broadcast. It is easy to broadcast for purpose, change, or advocacy – but are you indeed connected to the roots of the problem(s) or bound by the roots for survival? Fishrot was the largest earthquake recorded in Namibia, and the grounds were prepared and watered by cases before and after. The loss of trust and the ever-questioning of transparency will result in ripple effects (economic downgrades, job losses, loss of votes, political factions in conflict, protests, the question of legitimacy, strikes). We learnt that change is the norm. Relationships change – and some alliances are risky – but are you sticking to your guns when things get tough? The NSFAF – Bank Windhoek partnerships for funding was one such instance where both parties took responsibility for what they signed up for. Agree on the platform for engagement and what the specific responsibilities and expectations are – then stick with it and be willing to work for the benefit of the alliance even when things get messy.
Don’t make it personal, but ‘get personal’ with people:
Always endeavour to understand, value, and mobilise people for their unique strengths when working to achieve common goals. Try your best. Provide context, listen, keep it short, true, and simple.
If you make regular and truthful investments into your media platforms, almost viewing it as a savings account, you will have more to draw from during times of crisis. A grandiose fireworks approach to public communications might have worked when Namibia had only four print media, some broadcast, and no real social media communications a decade ago. Today however, your digital footprint has become something to be approached with responsibility. You are indeed telling a story across broadcast, print and online media, and it has become your International CV on Google. It’s instantaneous, and therefore requires concise planning and now, more than ever, congruence in messaging is of utmost importance. Marketing and Communication Officers can not function independently when communicating on behalf of the company any more.
Focus on the youth:
Mentorship and fostering an environment that stimulates productive teamwork with and from our youth, is what will be shaping our future. Give recognition to these teams that support you as a thought leader. When you nurture the young minds, and include them on the journey with the freedom to express their strengths but the moral compass to stay the course, you effectively validate each other.
Never stop learning. The easiest way to learn is by being exposed to other areas of expertise, and participating on public platforms that are pro-change. Participation however warrants the responsibility to be well informed and educated on the myriad of issues that are at the forefront of the communities (be it economic, political, consumer or SME groups).
Respect the season:
The season to ‘grind, learn, and fix’, the season to ‘sow, teach, and mix’, the season to ‘let it grow’, but inevitably also when the season arrives to ‘let it go’. Whatever the season, identify where you are – and deal with it head-on. Systematically work on the task at hand and do not be too proud to ask the help you need to do it. Remember; it takes many good deeds to build a good reputation (B. Franklin), so give measured attention to those that attempt to steal from your reputational investments.
Distance yourself from noise and fix the problem:
Liaise with your trusted teams when challenging situations appear. When you have made an error of judgement, acknowledge it and strategise to find the best approach to solving it. Also have the courage to know when a response is not required or warranted – some platforms feed on sensation.
When you smell the smoke, cast water to various platforms:
Acknowledge the various platforms and the message thread (or likely threat), and after gathering all the information you can, choose what to disseminate in terms of best linking to your plan of action Remember that you are not alone, thousands of businesses, individuals and organisations undergo various crises daily. Take the time to put those risks onto a gauge and to have a default response to the different zones for risk. You can only act systematically and bear with the process, and of course, learn.
You cannot be liked all the time:
The true measure of success is measured via engagement. Your engagement is mostly determined by how relevant you are. Data provides context and statistics that have started to guide companies real-time and show them whether they are on or off point. You might not be relevant to all the stakeholders all the time, but focus on the context of what it is that you are trying to do. Are you listing on the stock exchange, but you are listening to economists more than to your investors? Are you promoting transparency but not allowing room for investigative journalism that aim to uproot corruption? Are you posting fake news to further your cause or to ease your conscience? Are you selective in what you choose to view as the statistics you draw from to make decisions? Be honest with yourself.
I’ve worked with CEO’s under attack that choose to draw from vetted data and make consulted decisions on how to proceed, and how to remain objective – because the outcome is not based on an individual, but on a team. It’s a huddle in the jungle.
Anyway, I hope you had an amazing festive season with your loved ones. Keep them close this year, and take care of yourself too.