“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations,”
~ Bill Gates
Jim was visiting a foreign country. He was walking leisurely on a nearly empty street. When he passed a store, he saw to his horror a fierce Rottweiler attacking a baby. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jim rushed forward, grabbed the dog with his bare hands, and wrestled it to the ground. After several bloody and terrifying minutes, Jim managed to kill the beast and rescue the child.
Jim was bleeding. People, who gathered by then, took him to a nearby hospital. Later that day, a city reporter came to the hospital and met Jim to report what had happened. When he learnt about Jim’s brave and selfless act, he exclaimed: “What a story!”. Even the title for the story flashed in his mind: “Local Hero Saves Child”.
But the reporter came to know that Jim was just visiting the city, and not a local.
The reporter thought that the story is even more interesting. He only had to change the title to:
“Visitor Risks Life to Save Child”.
Finally, before leaving, the reporter asked: “By the way, what do you do Mr Jim?”
Jim replied: “I am the chairman of a listed company.”
The journalist noted down and left.
The next day the story appeared with the title:
“Corporate Fat Cat Strangles Family Pet to Death”.
Nowadays relations between media and corporates are not something great to write home about. Journalists don’t believe what companies say. The bigger issue is that people do not believe what is reported. This affects public relations building.
We all want public relations – because public relations brings us new customers, new investors, new employees, new partners, and so on. But we end up killing public relations when we pay too much attention to public relations at the cost of customer relations, investor relations, employee relations, and community relations.
Public relations can save startups, grownups, granddaddies of all industries from failure. It is the first and only button to press when things go wrong. But it is often the only button that never gets pressed – at least not in the right way.
We can rescue our business and put them back on the growth trajectory. It all begins with the clear understanding that what we are doing in the name of business is building relationships.
Mr Roger Dickhout, a management consultant, explains this aspect in this thought provoking article he wrote for McKinsey years ago.
He says that the role of business is about maintaining “Constituent Balance”. “When the constituent interests (interests of shareholders, employees, customers, communities, etc) are out of balance in a large corporation, the gloves come off as shareholder groups rebel against complacent management, or customers punish a company for poor quality,” he writes. The way to bring back the balance is by maintaining good relationship with all the constituents – which is what is the means and ends of true public relations.
The role of leadership in the words of Roger is to maintain constituent balance by making sure that “customers are satisfied, talent and investment flow in, and management, employees, and shareholders feel adequately rewarded.” If this is what leadership in business is all about, then our working hours should be considered public relations hours. Sankar, Management Author and Consultant.