Updated: Dec 16, 2020
I don't have to tell you that right now, we're heading for one of the bleakest winters since the 1970s. It's a message that's everywhere right now.
Today, we sit down at our desks, another Monday, faced with prospects that were looking thin on the ground last Friday as it was. Now they are probably looking worse. England is heading for yet more uncertainty, to some, a return to something that Charles Dickens loved to write about and despite struggling through this far, some businesses, face the possibility of closing permanently.
So, what next?
I am passionate about public relations (small p, small r.) I believe in the communication between one human being and another in it's basic form. One of the big things for me this year is that we can't smile at passers by any more and somehow we're trying to learn to smile with our eyes (you try it) and raising the tone of our voices to compensate that we can't share our 7 million year old natural instinct to connect.
But as much as I would like to ramble on today about how I personally, miss hugs, smiles and a good laugh with a stranger for no apparent reason, I am here to talk about a golden opportunity that now lies before us. And yes, I did say opportunity.
Let me clarify but not in a smarmy, second hand car salesman, wringing sweaty hands sort of way, and not even in a corporate 'we can share slides!' Irritating Teams vs Zoom sort of way either. I mean businesses connecting with their public through the public.
With selling products always secondary to any business activity, this is the ideal time to get back to PR basics, look at the hungry dole queue and pick out the most creative, sparkiest, inspiring individuals with decades of consumer experience, practical knowledge and the know how which comes from working for years with YOUR customers. I'm talking about the bright things of all ages from our failing retail and hospitality sectors. They could be exactly what your business needs right now. A new kind of PR people who can make your business thrive again.
Ok, let's start off with reminding ourselves what PR is. For a start, it's not marketing. I see dozens of businesses still getting this wrong. PR is the message that one person tells another person about your business. It's what the media, public and just about anything else with a pulse say about you. You might promote a new product, write a cunning press release, but what the journalist decides to write about you is their call. Not yours. Your own message is marketing. Someone else's message about you is PR.
But let me tell you something I have learned over the years since working in this industry. There are truly brilliant people out there frightened of stepping into the world of PR because of its own public profile. Ironically.
PR over the last ten years has become, in some parts of the world, elitist. PR has become something that only the whitest of collar companies have decided to call their own. 'You're only top of your industry if you have a PR department.' PR should be for everyone and accessible to everyone. Now is the time to rewrite the book.
PR is free. It only costs if you get it wrong. And then it can cost dearly. Yet master your real values and be true down to the core of your company and it can be like the best top soil money can buy. The best PR professionals I have ever had the pleasure to work with have not started off in the game. They were former bar staff, customer service assistants, drivers and hairdressers. They might not come with a degree but they come with experience of people which no university will teach you.
They know communities, social differences, pain points, what truly matters to people, your customers. They are walking, talking customer research encyclopedias who, with a little guidance from trainers, like me, can be the greatest asset and brightest decision you could make in this dark year of all dark years.
This year has forced us to work differently. Not just park ourselves conveniently at kitchen worktops or perched on the ends of beds, but take a look at HOW we work. Who is around us? Where the gaps are. Because our customers are buying differently, we must adhere also. We might be facing yet another lockdown and perhaps harder than the last, but our customers are still out there, needing us more than ever to listen, to speak, to communicate.
So, if you do anything in this last quarter, don't set your bot to only pick out the CVs from the fresh grads, consider a well crafted, CV from someone who just might have the edge over a degree and let's give them a chance.