If you have been to an industry conference, listened to an industry webinar or read any number of long-form posts related to the public relations and corporate communications industry you have undoubtedly heard that “a seat at the table” is what every PR professional covets/needs/should strive for.
The whole idea is to get the public relations voice to be a trusted resource who can credibly help the organization.
The public relations and corporate communications professionals have historically had a difficult time obtaining one of these coveted seats. The reason this barrier exists is self-made. Executives need more than how many clips the brand was mentioned in over a period of time, how much of the news cycle was dominated by the recent crisis or how many messages were picked up last month.
Executives need to know if the news cycle is a media event or a brand event.
What’s the difference?
Media events versus brand events
A media event is a news cycle that is generating a noticeable amount of negative coverage, regardless of medium (online, print and/or social). This is where PR usually stops evaluating the situation, but precisely where we need to go further and determine if this is a brand event.
A brand event is when a media event is influencing the people who have read that online article, shared that tweet or reposted on Facebook. This is where a crisis communication situation is born. Should the media event go on long enough and begin to influence current customers and potential customers the communications teams need to work on mitigating the situation.
This distinction matters in how you decide to communicate
Depending on the situation, different communications tactics can be deployed along with appropriate marketing tactics. Not every situation requires full-on crisis mode, but the ability to evaluate and respond in the right measure is what executives are looking for from their teams.
The bottom line is the bottom line. This is what executives must protect and communicators are on the front line of defense. Advising if the situation warrants a public statement, a goodwill gesture, or an adjusted marketing campaign is what communicators need to position themselves to provide.
Advice and recommendations on how to move forward are based on an understanding of the current media event. Sometimes this will be based on experience with the brand or having observed how others have navigated a similar situation. What it should not be based on is how many clips talked about the situation, but how and if the situation is influencing buying behavior in the company retail stores, or if the sales team are unable to close deals.
The situation has to be evaluated before (ongoing monitoring), during (sustained monitoring and review), and after (primary research) the media event has occurred. The end of the news cycle is the beginning of the process to determine what impact the event has had on current and potential customers. This insight is what executives need to ensure they are not making decisions that will negatively impact company margins unnecessarily. It also provides the communicator a seat at the table as a trusted, informed advisor.
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