QUICK SHOT: Practice PR for Positive Public Perception
By Juliana Larocco, Strategist/BDI Academy
It’s a good thing I enjoy a real challenge, because ensuring positive public perception is always a challenge! Thankfully, I’ve discovered three simple ways to help pave the path to great public perception… and to navigate circumstances when the path gets a little rocky.
Public perception is often out of your control. Just one situation – negative or positive – can shape your ministry’s reputation for weeks or even months. But after 35 years in public relations, I’ve learned there are a lot of things you CAN control. Let me show you how the 3 P’s of PR can make all the difference!
As a public relations consultant, I’ve been asked to mitigate public relations crises for many ministries. And I’ve noted that often their situations could have been avoided by addressing issues upfront instead of putting them off to save time or money.
Here are some real-life examples that resulted in serious PR problems:
“I hope the fire marshal doesn’t show up this week. I’d like to see if that donor comes through before taking money from the general fund.”
“We didn’t have time to put the guy through the volunteer application process. He seemed nice, and we needed help moving that elderly woman into permanent housing.”
“Take the women to church in the blue van, but don’t go over 40 and stay off the highway. We need to get those brakes replaced.”
Each of these examples resulted in painful situations that could have been avoided by doing the right thing at the right time. Here are ways to prevent problems before they occur:
- Make sure your organization is up to code: building code, fire code, health code, every code! Even if it hurts financially.
- Insist your staff follow the policies and procedures created to protect you.
- Maintain ministry vehicles, equipment and appliances.
- Evaluate sketchy situations and their risks. Ask for counsel if necessary.
You can’t prevent problems unless you know what needs to be prevented, right? Here are tips to gain the knowledge you need:
- Gather team leaders for weekly roundtables to discuss issues of immediate and long-term concern. Yes, weekly is a big commitment… but a lot can happen in seven days.
- Take a weekly walkthrough, visiting each department and asking questions. Pay attention to sights, sounds and even smells, and note signs of trouble ahead:
- In the laundry room: You are still using the commercial drier every day though it’s overheating?
- In the parking lot: The van’s bumper is about to fall off. Have you scheduled a repair?
- In the volunteer department: A volunteer was injured while on the property, but no one has filled out an injury report?
- In the kitchen or warehouse: Why does the food pantry smell like garbage?
- Schedule quarterly meetings with team leaders to review and ensure past issues have been resolved, assess new potential risk areas, and plan corrective action.
Implementing these practices – and maintaining them faithfully – will help ensure you stay on top of potential problems, and protect your ministry’s constituents and good reputation.
There will always be times when, no matter how hard you’ve tried, something will go wrong. That’s when public relations provides its strongest support!
- When the unavoidable occurs, don’t shy away from public perception; be preemptive and run toward it!
- Draft a crisis management plan so you can face the situation calmly and with confidence instead of reacting in fear. BDI’s clients can find a crisis plan in the Library.
- Craft factual, brief talking points that provide your staff with unified responses to questions from donors, reporters and the community at large.
- Beat the media to the punch by telling the story first to better control the situation from an offensive position rather than playing defense. Write a press release and get the news out, instead of waiting for a reporter to tell their own possibly skewed or biased perspective.
BDI’s Consultancy can teach you how to create key messages for any situation. Contact Shellie Speer, Senior VP, BDI Academy, at email@example.com or (719) 210-6207 to learn more.
Preventive, proactive and preemptive actions are three powerful public relations tools to being PREPARED. As the holiday season revs up, make sure you’ve got these three public relations P’s squarely in your corner, so you can enjoy celebrating the holidays with confidence and joy!
Juliana Larocco, Strategist/BDI Academy
With more than 35 years of experience in the fields of development, fundraising and public relations, Julie served for 24 years as Community Relations Director and Chief Development Officer respectively at two well-known Rescue Missions in Kansas City, Mo., and 12 years as a consultant to Rescue Missions nationally, before joining the team at BDI. During her career, she authored two commissioned books: I Never Asked for the Easy Way for City Union Mission and The Yes Journey for The Foundry Ministries.
Julie skillfully manages two positions at BDI: first, as a strategist and trusted advisor on the Client Service team and second, as a valued member of our BDI Academy, helping to create and maintain content, and acting as a coach to ministries requesting assistance with specific challenges.