February 16, 2015
In my first role as PR Director at a top US professional services firm, few situations used to irk me more than having senior leadership reject or simply ignore a carefully crafted and thought out recommendation I made on how best to handle a challenging communication or reputation management issue, only to have leadership embrace the exact same suggestion a few hours or days later when it was made by our outside PR counsel. I initially felt somewhat hurt and more than a little bit outraged (Why didn’t my Firm Chair take me seriously? How come the CMO asked an outsider for his opinion rather than just trusting my experience and business acumen? Why am I even here if they are just going to consult with an outside agency?) until I reminded myself that of course leadership was more likely to take my suggestion once it was validated by an outsider—after all, that’s why proactive PR is so beneficial to companies in the first place: it helps an organization gain credibility with its target audiences because the news is being delivered by an objective, trusted third party source.
Communications studies consistently show that people need to hear (and see) the same message repeatedly before the listener can absorb it (indeed traditional print and broadcast advertising is based on that very supposition, which is why the same ads run over and over again). While clients may first tune out when your organization approaches them with a solution to a challenge they face, if they hear the same idea several times in a different setting or applied in a different way, sooner or later the message will break through the clutter and begin to resonate. That’s why B2B companies must be consistent when it comes to their core messages, regardless of whether you are communicating via email, over the telephone, in person or in a short video on your website or YouTube.
More importantly, ideas also carry more weight when they come from a trusted third party source. It is far more credible when a reporter at The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times calls you or your company “cutting edge” or “business savvy” than if you to say yourself. As I said in a previous post, media relations should be the first stop in a company’s journey to reach its target audience.
Likewise if your clients or customers share their perspective about in what areas your company could improve, both leadership and the average employee are more likely to take such concerns seriously.