PR in the Post-Truth Era Requires Preparation and Agility

Apr 28, 2017 Samantha McGarry

Strategic planning and message development has always been a central tenet of public relations, but never more than now when trust in the media is being questioned, news cycles are on steroids, emotions are politically-charged, and brand reputation is increasingly under scrutiny. For marketers, communicators and public relations professionals, this new “post-truth” PR reality requires us to be more prepared and ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Here are some ways to ensure you are ready for whatever lies ahead:

Be safe

News breaks first on social media and contagion can follow quicker than expected. Given this climate, you need to update crisis plans and especially your social media escalation plans. Do you know what to do in case of a consumer boycott? What about a tweet from @POTUS? And what if there should be an information leak or breach? Don’t forget, anything you put in email (such as in internal memo to employees) can be made public. If you don’t have a plan, get one fast. And be sure to prepare in advance a stable of holding statements for the media and social channels for any scenario you can imagine. (Make sure they’ll fit in a 140 character tweet.)

Be adaptable

If your best laid media strategy and tactics aren’t working because the news cycle is too short or too crowded for you to be heard, be willing and ready to pivot. To break through today, your story needs to be relevant to the world at large or alternatively, be hyper-focused to resonate with a particular audience. This does not mean you should be talking politics, per se. But it should be clear why you matter right now. For example, you might want to talk about how your industry is impacted by the proposed changes to H1-B visas. Do you have a point of view on the looming net neutrality issue? Beyond media, there are other paths you can take to ensure your messages are reaching your target audiences. Think sponsored content and paid social.

Be ready

Let’s call this scenario planning for storytelling -- creating a nimble infrastructure for evolving the message in real time. Our world is instantaneous so it’s wise to develop canned stories or responses for almost any situation because you won’t have days or even hours to wordsmith or approve the messaging. At InkHouse, we have a new process for rapid-response storytelling and we’re using it often.

Keeping up with the times requires being open to adapting mindsets and plans at short notice and, most of all, being prepared. Good luck out there.
Samantha McGarry

Samantha is a senior vice president at Inkhouse. Her curiosity for business and technology - combined with her love of semantics and communication - has translated into a 20+ year career in PR.

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