Group Gordon’s Erin Gaffney explores how public relations can be deployed to support public service.
From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March to the current election, there has been a lot of uncertainty and misinformation. During these times of crisis, people are looking for guidance and reliable information, which is where public service and public relations intersect. The aim of public relations is to communicate information to people in an open and transparent manner. Especially in our current environment of unrest and mistrust, it is vital to ensure that the public has access to accurate information.
As organizations across sectors continue to navigate politics and the pandemic, public relations professionals must utilize everything in their toolboxes to reach people with the facts and combat misinformation. Here are a few ways public relations can work to support public service:
Counterbalance social media misinformation
In the digital age, many people get news and new information from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By sharing reliable information across social platforms that their audiences pay attention to, companies can show their dedication to remaining transparent through a time of misinformation. For example, when there is a trending national or local conversation around an issue relevant to your industry, your company can offer an expert perspective and resources based in fact to inform key audiences and correct false information that may be circulating.
Support a socially engaged society
Throughout 2020, companies have increasingly gotten involved in conversations about social and political issues. However, when companies get involved, they must do so thoughtfully, substantively, and consistently, while making clear how it fits into their brand’s purpose. For example, when gauging how and if to vocalize support for a social or political cause, ask questions like: How does this align with our business’s mission and goals? How does this contribute to moving the issue forward? What specific actions will we take to make an impact?
From there, decide on the causes related to your company’s purpose, the actions you’ll take, and how to communicate about them. When companies make a major financial commitment or significant operational change, communicating publicly about it can show leadership, inspire similar actions in their industries, and show a strong commitment to company values. Group Gordon recently hosted a webinar, Communicating Purpose in a Socially Engaged World, which can help businesses navigate these kinds of communications.
Maintain strong internal communications
As important as communicating to external audiences is engaging employees. Through newsletters and internal email blasts, companies can provide credible information and resources from reliable news sources in response to what’s happening in the world. It may also be helpful to set up weekly or monthly check-ins where employees can voice concerns, share ideas for how individuals and the company can engage on social and political issues, and create a forum for diverse perspectives. A healthy work environment shouldn’t demand a singular perspective from all employees but rather foster openness to and respect for different views.
Public relations is about more than promoting a company and its products or services. It can also be a powerful tool for public service when companies use their platforms to promote transparency, accuracy, and engagement in our society.