Ready for good news? Proactive media activities are making a comeback. I’m sure that’s a welcome statement for PR pros who seem to spend their days reacting to crisis after crisis.
Yes, crisis communications has filled our plates for a while. Part of the problem is that readers and reporters love negative news, as confirmed by a 2014 McGill University study. And along with this age-old predilection for the negative is the current flood of fake news propagation and accusations. Sometimes it seems that we'll spend our entire careers in reactive mode.
But we can turn the tables. Proactive and positive stories have significant benefits, including mitigating the influence of negative stories. So, to make proactive pitching a priority for ourselves and our C-suites, here’s what needs to be done:
- Find the heroes – Stories involving everyday heroes and experts are uplifting and intriguing. Look for people who overcome the odds or those who offer helpful advice to others. These themes play well and offer relief for tense times.
- Stick to values – What does your organization stand for? Finding stories that promote your company’s values advance the brand. Such stories nicely augment advertising and marketing. Landing an article that promotes your brand’s values is a coup–without the expense or chest thumping of a paid ad.
- Involve your C-suite – Give your executives the opportunity to gain visibility beyond responding to crises. This means more than grabbing a CEO quote for your story. Let readers know more about your executives by asking them to write first-person essays, engage them in thought-leader round-ups or even have them step out on a limb from time to time. How about an article featuring senior executives making predictions about the industry? We did an article like that and it received extensive and positive coverage.
- Be genuine – Know that a proactive piece doesn’t–and shouldn’t–be completely positive. There are going to be a few rough edges to your hero and challenges to stories that promote your company’s values without actually endorsing its goods and services. Telling this human side of the story adds to the appeal and strengthens your credibility.
- Tell the truth – Do I need to say this? Factual news always will win over fake. It’s up to us to help make this happen.
Once you’ve pitched and succeeded at landing great proactive stories, it’s also up to you to inform others within the organization of your successes. You need to show that proactive press is more than fluff and can have a significant impact on the bottom line. When I started at my present job, I spent my first six months putting programs in place to show the value of proactive public relations to internal audiences. This means implementing measurement systems that everyone –including your strategy and finance leaders –find meaningful.
It is possible for us to break from the routine of reactive public relations. The change won’t happen overnight, but with some effort and a few successes under your belt, it will happen.
Nisha Morris is executive director, communication, Providence St. Joseph Health. PR News named her a top woman in PR in 2017.