Solid Gold

In public relations we talk a lot about messaging. Staying on message is, as Banya would say on Seinfeld, golden. It's the gold standard. But before an organization can stay on message, it needs to first figure out what the message is, whom the message is for, and the best way to deliver it. That's not as simple as it sounds.

Organizations that try and do too much for too many, or worse, to be all things to all people, end up with messages that can be confusing and dull. Some organizations dilute their messages because they want to please everyone. Many are just too busy to develop a clear understanding of what they want to say. And that's a problem that can be very frustrating for each internal and external audience the organization is trying to reach.

Organ donation organizations are a good example of delivering a clear message in a consistent way. Many of them use Donate Life as a primary message. It communicates the organization's mission and a call to action, all in two words. From there, they can expand the message. "Organ donors save lives." "One donor can save the lives of eight people." "Give the gift of life."

Townsend (a Pushkin PR client) is an intellectual property law firm. They wanted to communicate that no one is better at protecting the ideas and innovations that inventors and entrepreneurs create. When the firm went through a recent rebranding process, it settled on a way to communicate that message in one word: Townsend. The message is simple, clear and direct. You came to the right place. Enough said. Rather that coming up with long, complicated sentences that tried to explain the firm's long history, every practice group and every industry it serves, it settled on something beautifully simple: Townsend, period.

When an organization struggles to explain who it is or what it does it is an indication that something is wrong. That's when you hear people saying that someone is "off message." They ramble, they stumble, they get themselves in a whole lot of trouble. It’s like taking to someone at a party that's had a few too many drinks. Pretty soon you start explaining to them that you are due back on planet Earth.

If this problem sounds familiar, take a step back and ask a few important questions:

Who are we?

What do we stand for? What is our brand promising?

What do we do?

What are the three most important things we want people to know about us?

Answering those questions will help you define the core qualities that define your organization. After that, the trick is to communicate them in a clear and consistent way. Once you master that skill, you'll be in like Flynn. Solid gold.

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Taking a peek at the future

Taking a peek at the future is no simple thing. Just look at Colorado. Who would have guessed that Governor Ritter would decide not to seek reelection? Or that Ken Salazar, the leading candidate to take his place, the man who said being governor of Colorado was his dream job, would decide to stay in Washington?

It's the same in public relations. We all try and come up with our most educated predictions on the economy, industry trends, new technology and the job market. We tweet about the "new" Twitter, we blog about the "new" PR, we tell our friends and our connections what is about to happen, but none of us has a crystal ball. Instead of guessing what's going to happen, what if we decided to make it happen?

What kind of business do you want? What kind of reputation do you strive for? What are the three most important things you want to accomplish this year? And how can you go about achieving them?

James Brown was the hardest working man in show business. Would you like to be known as the hardest working doctor in medicine? Or would you rather be considered the smartest lawyer in the room? Do you want to be a thought leader or a community leader? Do you want to be feared or loved? How about respected?

For me, instead of worrying about being an expert at all things and mastering everything I don't have time to master, I would like Pushkin Public Relations to be known for its integrity. Don't get me wrong, I want us to be known for our smarts too. But technology and the media world are changing too fast. Mastering every new social media tool that comes along is too overwhelming. That's what strategic partners are for. Personally, I would be happy to be known as the hardest working man in PR. The James Brown of PR. I like that.

Being a leader means being able to anticipate change and help your team, your co-workers, your organization, your clients or your community adjust. It seems that we can make the process easier and more predictable if we work as hard as we can to create the future we'd really like to see.

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