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    Listen Up, Speak Up: Biggest PR Mistakes Companies Make

    In the old days, when a wronged-employee was upset, he reported it to HR and complained to his spouse. Today, a wronged-employee can write one scathing post on social media that goes viral and cause thousands of customers to drop the company app, force an executive to resign, and send the business into crisis-mode. The stakes are high and results can be devastating.

    The Golden Rule is to treat people the way you want to be treated. The Platinum Rule is to treat people the way they want to be treated. And when you don’t follow the Platinum Rule, the public has more ways than ever to complain about it. Companies need to listen up, and then speak up to maintain positive public relations.

    Here are some of the biggest PR mistakes that companies make and easy ways to strengthen your PR plan.

    1. Not listening to your employees

    Employees are talking. They are talking to their co-workers. They are talking to their friends and family. They are talking on social media. Do you know what they are saying? Are you doing anything about it?

    In PR trainings, experts always say you should Google yourself. If pictures of you partying with glassy eyes and a goofy grin pop up, you need to clean up your profile. Companies should be monitoring themselves, too. Set up Google alerts. Get an account with Glassdoor. If your sales department has consistent complaints about management, you need to take action. Potential employees are reading those reviews, and they’ll probably think twice about applying.

    2. Not listening to your customers

    Reputation management is tough in today’s fickle society with access to a massive network. Bad news spreads fast. Customer service must be excellent and wrongs must be made right ASAP.

    Again, Google yourself. What are customers writing on the Better Business Bureau about your company? If there is a consistent theme, take action. It’s easy to blame the customers for never being satisfied, but you need to take a look at each complaint and ask questions. Find out why the customer was so unhappy.

    It’s become so easy for people to hide behind the computer, and I’m not just talking about that unhappy customer. Businesses also find it easier to avoid the online complaints. Don’t think it will just go away. Those complaints can pile up and create a negative online profile that anyone can find.

    3. Pitching non-news

    Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight. You need to speak up to get noticed, but there must be something newsworthy when you do. The media wants to know something new, different, or important. Having your company rally behind a cause or another organization can give you good news that makes a big impact. “Joe was promoted to vice president” won’t get as much coverage as “ABC Bank donates $500,000 to financial literacy program at inner-city school.” Find something that your company does that makes an impact on something bigger than you.

    4. No comment

    Having “no comment” during a crisis is unacceptable. You need to speak up. You need to say something because having no response can cause distrust among the public, your employees, and your customers. It can also appear that you don’t care. Consult your crisis communication plan. Or Google what other companies have done in a similar situation. Then you must respond quickly. Reporters won’t hold the story until tomorrow. They’ll report the news today and move on. They may not care about your carefully crafted response when you call them back.

    Listen up, and then speak up. Take complaints seriously. Confront the problems. Your business depends on happy customers and happy employees. When you have something truly good, let everyone know about it.


    Lisa Pinto

    Lisa Pinto joined SWBC in 2006. As Vice President of Public Relations and Corporate Communications, Lisa is responsible for the company’s public relations eff orts and working with the media throughout the country. She is also responsible for the company’s corporate communications.

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