Now that the election is behind us, can business owners finally look ahead? Health reform is here to stay. Will Congress embrace bipartisanship? Will certainty return to the markets? Will companies begin to hire and invest in their business again as the recovery continues and consumer confidence gains strength?

For Denver public relations pros, these steps would represent a welcome trend. In PR and in business, uncertainty leads to confusion, confusion leads to indecision, indecision leads to mixed messages, and mixed messages leads to poor communication. And there is nothing we hate more than poor communication.

Regardless of whether the election results in more certainty, it certainly taught us some valuable lessons about the importance of public relations.

Strategy matters: The Obama campaign knew exactly what it needed to accomplish and how to get there. The strategy was designed to deliver exactly the number of votes they needed from every county in every state. Nothing was left to chance.

Organization counts: Team Obama’s ground game will be studied and copied for years to come. They had offices where they needed them and a sophisticated get out the vote plan. They knew exactly how many times a volunteer needed to contact a prospective voter to make sure that every vote was counted. No gut feelings here. Everything down to the last detail was planned.

Facts don’t lie: There has been a lot of post-election analysis about why Nate Silver’s predictions were so accurate and why conservative media predictions were so far off. It’s simple really. One was based on scientific research and the other was based on wishful thinking. A good example to bring up the next time a client asks why do we need that research budget.

PR beats advertising: A combined $6 billion was spent on political ads in this campaign, but the outcome was determined by the Obama campaign’s relentless ground game. Grassroots tactics such as phone calls and knocking on doors proved to be the key to winning. Which proves what we’ve been saying for years: PR is more cost effective and more credible than paid advertising.

Get real: To undecided voters, Obama seemed more authentic than Romney. He seemed more able to understand and have compassion for the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans. This was especially true for women and minorities.

The important takeaway for public relations pros is that successful campaigns depend on the ability to educate and motivate target audiences. Our messages should ring true, sound authentic and be culturally relevant to the audiences we need to reach. Advertising is sexy but PR is build to last. Advertising is great for reaching a mass audience, but convincing them to trust you takes more than spending huge piles of money. It takes a well-organized, research-driven, strategic communications program. It takes solid grass-roots outreach. You can’t buy credibility. You have to earn it.