Transparency and Truth are PR’s Best Policies
Transparency and Truth are PR’s Best Policies

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about ways to help brands increase their public awareness.

Whether they started in a garage in the 1930s or were born from pixels last week, every brand has a story to tell about its innovation, discovery or success. Those stories are in there somewhere, nee.....

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about ways to help brands increase their public awareness.

Whether they started in a garage in the 1930s or were born from pixels last week, every brand has a story to tell about its innovation, discovery or success. Those stories are in there somewhere, need to be found and then brought to light and shared.

Behind every single brand in the world, there are people who have created something special to them and valuable to others that not only deserves recognition but also would be interesting to those unfamiliar with it.

It sounds simple enough, but there are no shortcuts. Great stories are found and not made. There is no story store. Media communications isn’t a world for inventors of fantasy or tellers of tall tales. And it isn’t a place where you will last long if you lack a modicum of intellectual honesty.

Truth – and this is non-negotiable – must be the prevailing driver for the media communications professional.

Artists have painted truth as the revealing of light. The Bible says that truth will set you free. Honesty and transparency always win out over everything else. And the process of delivering stories that are born from truth is neither painstaking nor difficult to endeavor. It is derived through the same journalistic process and protocols as original reporting, and is enhanced by asking the right questions and having the courage to look beyond what is visible without ignoring the obvious.

I see best practice for developing stories about a brand in these basic phases of discovery:

• Learn as much as is humanly possible about a brand independently;

• Learn as much as you can about what drives the brand, and the passion of its people from its people and those who utilize their service or products;

• Identify the great stories that exist around the people that have built the brand and/or foster its growth;

• Determine – through distillation and isolation – the unique qualities of the brand; and

• Connect the stories about the people, the products and contributions of a brand in a logical way that offers clarity.

If you can fuse those points and draw out the stories in and around the brand, you now can begin to bring awareness to them. And these stories will not only be interesting, they will be true.

We live in a great time, because, right now, there is nothing cooler than truth.

But to listen to some public relations wonks, you’d think that they could have a story published or a feature aired on television about anything they’d like – just as they might dream it up. Truth? They’ve never heard of it. They say that they know someone that knows someone that knows someone.

These spin doctors of malpractice profess that the switch can be flipped and the positive light can be shined on virtually everything – no matter how dark or unsavory.

Well, first things first: That is complete bullshit. I can tell you that from the more than 25 years I spent as a journalist, scrutinizing stories that were – and you know where this is going – too good to be true.

And it is the stunningly bad practice among some PR flaks to overinflate or exaggerate a story that diminishes the reputation of everyone associated with public relations. It knowingly deceives people. It hurts the profession. It negatively affects brands. Anyone that pulls a brand into that trap under the auspice of “public relations” is exposing that brand to a stigmatization that could last forever. Sometimes the stink never washes off.

Anyone who professes to represent a brand’s public image that cannot demonstrate a brand’s best work and or its most meaningful contributions across the broadest spectrum of interests that mankind ever has known – in an era where there are roughly a zillion niche sites, still more than 1,300 daily newspapers and about 100 channels on basic cable packages – is a relic of the stone age. Or stoned. Or perhaps both.

There is no room for deception in today’s media, on either side of the equation. The downturn of the economy has radically reduced the number of gatekeepers in our nation’s newsrooms, which only heightens the need for clearer, more transparent deliveries from public relations professionals.

And in the broadest scope of conversation about truth in media, there’s no room for deception anywhere today. Social media reviews that contain made-up names are as worthless as what’s scrawled on a restroom wall.

More so than ever before, the public craves authenticity and transparency. There are no secrets that can be concealed forever. There are infinite ways that news can be shared, and fewer controls on who shares it.

Will great brands go through challenging or difficult times? Unquestionably. Will mistakes be made? Absolutely. Will there be times when the truth might seem like a lesser alternative. Undoubtedly.

But the best way out of a difficult spot, in virtually every scenario, is straight through it.

In good times and bad, the stories that resonate the loudest are not only worth sharing, but they’re also true.

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As always, stay classy.

Chris Krug is president of the progressive media communications firm No Limit Agency in Chicago. No Limit is a full-service agency whose practice focuses on strategy, brand management, creative campaigns and delivering unparalleled placement in the media. No Limit Agency works with some of the best-known brands in North America, and that’s not a coincidence. Contact Krug by calling 312-526-3996 or via email at [email protected].