Avoiding the pitfalls of impulsive PR

Avoiding the pitfalls of impulsive PR

Matthew Healey

Matthew Healey

Everyone wants to be involved in exciting and relevant conversations. Think back a time to when you’ve been with a group of friends, and they’re excitedly discussing a TV show you haven’t seen. You likely felt excluded, perhaps even compelled to watch the show just to take part in the conversation. As those in PR know well, companies are no different. Everyone wants their company to be in the limelight, so naturally, they gravitate towards getting involved with newsworthy topics of the moment.

While it can be tempting to throw your company’s name in the hat in the hope of getting the right attention and visibility, it’s important to remember that there is a danger in being involved in conversations you really shouldn’t be. While in the short-term, gaining mainstream news coverage or likes and shares on social is exciting, it’s important to consider the long-term reputational risks of straying too far from your company’s original messaging.

The allure of the headlines

Over the past year, the predominant talking point for tech companies and beyond has undoubtedly been AI. As a topic, AI is broadly covered in the news, from specific stories about regional regulations to wider discussions surrounding the technology's ethics. While your company will likely have something to say about AI, it's less likely that every AI story is relevant for you.

For instance, a learning and development company utilising AI in their software may be able to comment on the technology's impact on workforce productivity but will likely want to avoid the topic of AI job displacement. It's vital to consider the wider story implications - and how a company would be perceived in the broader context, and not just from their own perspective.

While 'AI Washing' specifically concerns misrepresenting a company's use of AI technology, it also serves as an important reminder of the dangers of positioning a company as something they're not. The same holds true from a PR perspective - the further you stray from your company's services to focus on the latest trends, the more likely you’ll be misrepresented. Here are some questions you should ask yourself when deciding if that conversation is right for you:

  • Do we already have a perspective? - While new talking points will always crop up, if a story is relevant to you, there will likely be pre-existing content that informs your perspective. If you have to start from scratch to form a POV, it's more likely that this is outside your company's remit.
  • Is this a negative story? - There is a time and place for controversy, and it should probably be avoided when the story has high a degree of sensitivity. Even if a spokesperson believes they could share a POV, remember that the company as a whole will be represented - and impacted by the attention. Negative stories are unavoidable, but they should be managed with care.
  • Is this something we're going to continue discussing? -  Establishing a company's expertise and profile takes substantial time and in a constant state of change. Not every comment or thought leadership content is successfully picked up, but they all contribute to positioning your company as an important voice in your particular space. However, if you begin venturing into every topic that arises, you're likely to nullify your efforts to establish your company as a thought leader. By directing efforts to topics your company will continuously refer to, you have a better chance of establishing yourself as a reliable voice.

Every company has a perspective and expertise to share, but it's vital they are directed into the right areas. A valued PR partner can help your company discern when - and if - they should be part of a conversation. Rather than chasing ’what’s hot right now’, time would be better spent establishing a well-defined perspective and understanding where your company can offer valued insights to the press. With a clearer understanding of what your company can't discuss, you can be more effective in the conversations you do belong in.

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