What’s the One Thing?
PR has always been in the business of writing, sharing and promoting messages. Rightfully so. The message is the bulk of the work. Without it, nothing can be shared or promoted.
A case in point: two recent labor strikes at two New Hampshire-based companies. One received a lot of attention in the media; the other had little.
Why? It’s a matter of the message.
What to do
When employees at one of the companies went on strike over the summer, customers and vendors joined them. They had one wish, and one wish alone. They wanted their CEO, who had always treated them fairly, back.
They not only shared that message as soon as they went on strike, but they also persisted in sharing it. Their publics responded in kind. They showed their support by boycotting the store. This was a good employer. He should be kept in place. The employees wanted him back and weren’t going to work until he was.
The story became one of helping employees and reinstating an employer known for taking care of his workers and customers. The locals loved the story. More importantly, they acted and joined the unfolding story. The media loved it. A community uniting around a labor strike? What a story!
The end result? The board reinstated the CEO. Customers and employees whistled on their way back to the store aisles and work.
What to avoid
The same cannot be said of the second company. The story splintered. Employees went on strike purportedly because of wage and pension cuts.
The company sidestepped the accusation and responded with its own story: employees had tampered with equipment prior to going on strike, leading to outages for customers.
The company followed its story with an aggressive PR campaign that invited employees to come back to the company. It even issued full-page print ads showing how its salaries compared to average ones in the region.
The public faced a trust issue. Which party was telling the truth? Did it matter?
It didn’t seem to. The public mostly ignored the story. It was an internal argument taking place in public. So what? It didn’t affect the public any. They would still have to pay their bills, deal with customer service, and hope their WiFi worked.
What this means for you
Neil Niman, associate dean of academic programs at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, says, “Without the right message, no amount of public relations work is going to engage a disinterested public.”
The second story proves him right. Nobody cared about the ongoing battle between the employer and employees. Neither story connected with them. Taking action would do little, if anything.
The first story was different. It was singular in aim and had a simple request. The employees wanted their CEO back. Customers wanted him back, too, so the two parties took action. Employees went on strike while customers boycotted the store. They both put their money where their mouths were, and the board had no choice but to reinstate the CEO.
If you want to drive action, you have to focus on your one thing. Drive that message home, and your publics will take action.
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