Hello, and welcome to the Illumine Public Relations blog, The PR Equation. Thanks for spending a little time here and getting to know us, our company and our mission. I’m Michele Eaton, President and CEO. I hope I can be a source of guidance in navigating what is becoming an increasingly blurry business PR landscape. I also hope this blog will become a place of honest and forthcoming discourse, credible information exchange, and critical thinking about the actual nature of our business relationships—with each other, with other businesses, with our stakeholders, and with our consumers. Reach me any time you’d like at email@example.com or 719.352.1459.
The truth about trustworthiness
The CEO was dressed in a bespoke suit and red cowboy boots and emitted an air of confidence of which I was, frankly, jealous. His colleagues were much the same. They had come to me for media engagement training, which they called with varying of degrees of seriousness “preparing for battle with the enemy.”
After eight hours of acutely uncomfortable camera training (Boots hated it) and convincing them (only somewhat successfully) that the media was not their enemy, but, in fact, their very best friend, they were warm and appreciative. I thought, “Well, fantastic! I’ve delivered my message of truth! I’ve wielded the sword! I’ve educated a new C-suite in the truth pillars of PR!” I was elated.
Boots paused at the door. “Do you offer authenticity training? I’d really like the rest of my people to know how to sound like they’re telling the truth.”
I really like my work. I do. But I have a soapbox from which I feel compelled to shout the truth, increasingly loudly. Gather around, my friends. I’m about to share a fundamental truth about PR. Ready?
Way to start a new blog, you’re thinking. I’m outta…
Hang on. Don’t leave yet. I do have a point.
PR isn’t a shiny, $50,000, bound and typeset strategy from an expensive firm. It isn’t weeks of training for battle with the media, exceptional writing, catchy messaging, months of planning, Bored meetings, and another $50,000 on “connective branding.” It isn’t hours of gazing into a crystal ball or expecting your PR director to pace the floor every December, hoping everyone behaves at the holiday party, just this once.
I may have just sold myself out of a contract with you, but this is important. Listen.
Real public relationships cannot be drummed up with a professionally drafted strategy template. Don’t get me wrong—those things are necessary to good planning, but if there’s ambiguity where there should be authenticity, then the best branding/marketing/PR strategy on the planet won’t get you there, or it will, but only temporarily.
If your company’s people are authentic, transparent and trustworthy, then so is your company. People talk to companies they trust. They believe companies they trust. They give companies they trust another chance. Here’s a big one: they do business with companies they trust. I’ve been asked too many times to help a company run, hide, play distract the toddler, or otherwise do the hokey pokey, and I always say the same thing. It doesn’t work. Only trustworthiness works. If that sounds overly simplified, I’m glad, because it really isn’t rocket science. Trust me. I know what rocket science is. More on that later.
So, my answer to Boots? I really hope this doesn’t surprise you. The answer was no; I don’t offer authenticity training. Authenticity is an internal value—a choice we each make. It’s part of an equation that makes us trustworthy. You either are or you aren’t. If you’re not, I can’t teach you to be.
Isn’t that a little absolute for this day and age? You sound like my Sunday school teacher, you’re saying.
Yes, and yes. But I assure you, if you want to succeed in building relationships in business, the need for authenticity and trustworthiness is absolute.
Now more than ever, people are wandering in the virtual darkness looking for information, services, products and companies that are what they say they are. If you’re that company, we can and will help you tell that story. We can help you sail those tricky communication seas when something goes wrong, as it always does when people are being human. What we don’t do is help you hide it, lie about it, or sweep it under the rug, because we wouldn’t be doing you any favors in the long run. It isn’t always easy or fun, but shining a light on who you really are banishes the shadows every time. I have seen authenticity work to bring greatness to small businesses, and I have seen dishonesty bring down powerhouses.
So, welcome to Illumine PR. This is our blog, PR Ruminations. Join us, but only if it’s really you.