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Tell your story or someone else will do it for you

Like nature, the media abhors a vacuum.

 

The Guardian’s Nils Pratley sympathises with Sir Philip Green’s grumblings about the unrestrained conduct of MPs grilling him over the collapse of BHS, but he also feels Sir Philip could have waged a smarter PR campaign in the wake of the department store’s downfall. Pratley says the retail tycoon should have moved quickly to give his version of events, but instead his claim to have sold BHS to a credible buyer has slowly been eroded by other witnesses.

 

Few individuals in business or the public sector face the same kind of media and political scrutiny. Nor do they neatly fit into a vogue theme stereotype (in this case ‘fat cat boss’), but that doesn’t mean they can afford to ignore the media (including social media).

 

If you do not build and manage your reputation in the media and online, someone else will likely do it for you.

 

Organisations in the property and regeneration sector – private and public – frequently get into scrapes by proposing schemes without properly planning for the PR scenarios that will unfold when they go public.

 

This means that the news reaches affected communities as a surprise, and the shockwaves can quickly turn into an organised opposition campaign. I have heard tales of this happening, even when the planned development was overwhelmingly a good thing for the local area.

 

In one London borough, social housing residents were to be relocated before being rehoused in brand new homes in the same place that far exceeded the specifications of their existing flats and houses. There was a furore but as soon as they understood what was really happening, it died away. The communications campaign that eventually solved the problem should have been done ahead of time. It would have avoided the unpleasantness that manifested itself after residents tried to work out what was happening without the full knowledge they needed. In the absence of facts, they filled in the gaps with conjecture and misinformation, and the whole sorry story unfolded.

 

It is important to properly manage stakeholder engagement and prepare the ground before conducting a genuine public consultation, rather than a box-ticking exercise. Ensure the media are professionally briefed to that they are fully informed with the thinking behind any development.

 

Doing this well can not only avert a potential crisis but also smooth the path through planning consent as well as commercial and broader PR success as new developments and urban neighbourhoods integrate successfully with the wider community.

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The Ranieri Effect: 13 miraculous life and PR lessons you can learn from the humblest of champions

Leicester City’s miraculous victory startled everyone, and manager Claudio Ranieri won everyone’s hearts, even the media’s. But how? From a public relations perspective, we’ve been looking at how the Italian maestro picked up a broken record and created an operatic masterpiece.

PS As the longest-established PR consultancy in Leicester, we want to say thank you. We have never seen anything like it.

  1. Never underestimate the value of relationships

Claudio Ranieri’s rapport extends not only to his team but also to the fans who he says pushed his team beyond its dream, becoming in the breathless words of the Leicester Mercury The Immortals. His ability to build bridges also extends to the media. At press conferences, he would shake every journalist’s hand until that became impossible when the Leicester story began to attract legions of them. By contrast, Jose Mourinho’s awful early season at Chelsea was marked by surly interviews and his eventual demise, sabotaged by his own players.

  1. Smile, and the whole world smiles with you

With a twinkle in his eye and a disarming smile, Ranieri is easy to like, and his sense of humour is infectious. Journalists love his stories – Christmas gifts of little bells echoing his #dillydingdillydong training ground chime for players to wake up, pizzas all round when the team stopped leaking goals and kept a clean sheet. Notice the deeply serious messages – in a football context – behind the jokes.

  1. Humility is endearing but pride comes before a fall

What would the media have made of a manager who loudly claimed the credit for every good result, criticised opponents and condemned referees? They would bring him down with zeal at the first opportunity. Ranieri did not behave like that. He gave credit to everyone around him, was gracious about opponents and officials, and in his manner, came across as genuinely humble. The media liked that, and wanted to share in the fairy-tale ending. So did football supporters around the world, who began rooting for Leicester almost as much as they did for their own teams.

  1. Be steadfast in the face of adversity

If you can keep your heads when all around you are losing theirs… Of course, there were doubts. Critics continually predicted a meltdown. When things got tough and fans were biting their nails, Ranieri demonstrated immense strength of character. As the gap with the chasing teams narrowed, he gave an inspiring interview: “Never are we worried.” If you are campaigning for something, you can learn a lot from that.

  1. Don’t be afraid to show your human side

While the Brits are proud of their northern European work ethic and restraint, they not-so-secretly yearn for the romance of the south. Italian Ranieri gave the media another story when, while nearest rivals Tottenham played a crunch match, he left the country to visit his 95-year-old mother on her birthday.

  1. Reduce the pressure by focusing on achievable goals

As hopes and expectations grew, Ranieri was brilliant at deflecting pressure. By under-promising and over-delivering, he took the burden of expectation from his players and made every milestone along the way to the Premiership seem all the more remarkable. The opposite approach, to forecast immense success and then fail to achieve it, invites criticism down the line.

  1. Adapt your strategy as things change

Ranieri was brought in to build the team. This season would be about staying in the Premiership then building towards a minor European competition and then the Champions League. As each of those objectives was ticked off in his first season, Ranieri gently looked towards the next game. As opponents changed the way they played against his team, he changed tactics to shut up shop and put together a string of one-nil wins.

  1. Do it in style

It is one thing to win, quite another (as fans of the French rugby team demand) to do it in style. Voted the football players’ player of the year Riad Mahrez scored fabulous, stylish goals. Some of Leicester’s passing play brought to mind Barcelona’s tiki taka at its best. Even the pitch looked great. Teutonic penalties are all very well but this is entertainment. Let’s see some flair.

  1. Experiment with remarkable language

There are perhaps 100 trillion words on the web. Many of those are in clichés. Ranieri, by contrast, as a non-native English speaker, brought a rococo style to his interviews.

  1. Tell a good story

Leicester City’s amazing escape from certain death and march to the top of the English game is a classic storyline – overcoming the monster. An equally amazing story within the story was Jamie Vardy’s journey from non-league nobody to breaking Premiership records and being picked to play for England at the age of 28. That too is a classic storyline – rags to riches.

  1. Make a name for yourself

Perhaps you don’t have the flair of a Mahrez and will never have posters of your picture on young fans’ bedroom walls, but you can still make a name for yourself. Another Leicester hero, shortlisted for player of the year was N’Golo Kante. His consistent performances recognised by his peers and the intelligent football pundits, even if they were not the stuff of Hollywood.

  1. Be a man (or woman) of the people

Down to earth, hard-working and the captain of this happy band of brothers, Wes Morgan epitomises true grit. Genuine characters who ordinary people can relate to almost always get the popular vote.

  1. Celebrate in style

When Leicester’s season was all but done, and the unlikely Premiership roundly won, there were fireworks of course, but the most memorable moment was a spine-tingling performance of Nessun Dorma by Andrea Bocelli in the centre of the pitch. There was no unseemly chest beating from Ranieri. He stood alongside the tenor, watery eyed and quietly proud in an understated blue suit and tie. It was beautiful and dignified.

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The best things ever said about PR

So here they are, the world’s favourite quotes about the public relations profession as compiled in our online survey of communications professionals.

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Is it the big R or the small u?

Weakened by the insidious media outpour of grim economic news. Gunned down by the rat-tat-tat of your prospects telling you “no”. Deafened by the silence when you ask the world to take notice.