All that glitters

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By Consultant Georgi Wicks

When I was younger and figuring out what I wanted to do when I (eventually) grew up, the allure of PR hooked me. I was seduced by party planning, rubbing shoulders with the well-to-do, and the glitz of publicity.

However, now I am older, and perhaps a little wiser, I would share with my younger self a lesson I learnt the hard way – all that glitters is not gold.

There are two mainstream public perceptions of PR, one, the glamour and glitz of celebrity, and perhaps the more common perception of spin doctors in their sharp suits.

However, the latter opinion is more a case of perception verses reality. We don’t all play fast and loose to get where we’re going in our egotistical world, in fact the reality is, at least in my PR world, there exists an element of a genuine altruistic desire to help others.

Once I entered the industry and actually learnt what it was all about, I found my passion, and as with most things that change you, it came completely out of left of field.

I have moved away from what initially attracted me to the industry, and have become firmly set in the strategic realm of PR. While I understand on the surface, this statement undermines everything I have just said, as being ‘strategic’ can often be misconstrued with being ‘manipulative’, again, this is not the reality.

I was told recently, us PR pros ‘pedal influence’. This was an uneasy definition for me to grasp initially, and I couldn’t quite explain why. I slowly started to understand that it unsettled me because it came from the preface that with privilege comes the power of influence.

I do not agree.

We all have influence, whether we know it or not, sometimes we just need a little insight to reveal it.

For example, in my case, I now realise the information people empower within me can then be amplified and be used to ‘pedal’ this influence. This is the case for almost every situation, big and small.

While this all sounds pretty straightforward, the lynchpin to it all is basic and will make or break you – truth.

Lying is never an option in PR, and while you may find the occasional black hat PR hack who would advise you otherwise (and if you do, run a mile), ultimately, telling the truth will save you more than just money.

Telling the truth will help preserve your reputation. While this may sound like a strange statement, in general people are understanding, and accept everyone makes mistakes, even big organisations, in fact, admitting to errors humanises usually faceless enterprises.

Done properly, being truthful can build trust, awareness, loyalty and a greater client base. Organisations who truthfully navigate through situations tend to come out the other side stronger and more versatile.

A truly great PR professional will never advise you to tell half-truths or lie, and as scary as it is from our end, a great PR professional is brave and tells you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. You might not feel good about it at the start but you’ll thank us later.

The trait of being candid is essential for any PR professional, and a great characteristic to have in the industry.

Even if you don’t think telling the truth is all that important, let me appeal to the money maker in you, in pragmatic terms, it really is a lot cheaper, and sadly this is why not all PR companies believe the same.

Lies always get exposed in one way or another, and in the PR world, once that happens it’s more a matter of how long it will take for the news to slip from the front page than whether or not it will ever get there.

By getting out in front of the situation and telling the truth – the whole truth – you are essentially diffusing the situation, and furthermore, you are making yourself the source of the story, effectively driving the narrative – a pretty desirable position to be in during any PR situation.

So, to ‘spin’ it, perhaps if handled correctly, undesirable situations are in fact an opportunity. And the glitter, glamour and glitz that characterises some PR operations is more about attempts to delay that moment of truth.

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