Public relations tips are often about telling your story to the media. But what about the people who work for you?
Making news begins at home. It’s possible to send a strong new message to the press that covers your industry, or your company if you’re a big player. But is your message to the media the same one that you are telling internally? Internal communications can sometimes get left in the margins, or not fully engaged. The complications from that scenario should be clear but some of the more obvious ones — like keeping morale high during a transitional phase or a new C-level hire — can get lost or murky in the process.
Case in point: Last year a large, privately-held US company acquired a manufacturing concern across the pond. After a series of meetings to get clear on the media points and overall strategy, a couple of us PR types looked around the room and saw the client as contented as clients can get (a good thing). But then we asked, “How are you handling the news here in the US with your employee base and how are you handling it abroad inside the company that is getting acquired (in a country that was already bleeding jobs because of the ‘deep recession’)?”
The three people on the client side of the desk looked at each other and then at their PR people and their contentment turned into a sour cream-like substance. They hadn’t thought of this piece at all. After another round of discussions, all parties agreed that a clear message should be crafted for the presidents of the two merging companies to share with their employees. Each message would reflect the overall merger-and-acquisition announcement but individually there would be take-home news for the workers and their families.
For the US-based employees (who might fear that such an acquisition would mean eventual cut-backs in the labor ranks to help fund the acquisition), the message was simply, “We are expanding our footprint abroad, which will add to our ability to market and manufacture more heavily on the continent. And there will be no loss of jobs in North America.”
For the company abroad being acquired, the message was similar but the nuance was slightly different: “Given the state of the country’s economy [worse than here], we want to assure you that the new ownership does not plan any layoffs at this site, or the other operation (in another city not so far away). In fact, not only will jobs be preserved, the acquisition will create even more positions in the near term.”
The day the news went live on the international wire at noon, employees at both organizations had already been briefed at a company meeting two hours before the announcement. When the story was reported, both messages were conveyed in the US news release and the release abroad. The coverage was overwhelmingly positive everywhere it was reported. In fact, in the country where the acquisition was done, the news tone was often jubilant!
Moral of the story: Watch your backside in all your communications. Be uniform in your messages and personalize them to your internal audiences whenever you can. It goes a long way — and you won’t have that scent of cream going sour in the employee kitchen when the big news is coming down all around the people who make it happen every day get up and go to work for you.
For more resources, see the Library topic Public and Media Relations.
Martin Keller runs Media Savant Communications Co., a Public Relations and Media Communications consulting company based in the Twin Cities. Keller has helped move client stories to media that includes The New York Times, Larry King, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, plus many other magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and other media outlets. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 612-729-8585