Look beyond the apPeaRance of things

How do you build and sustain a strong reputation? As I reflect on my learnings from the two worlds of communication and coaching, I connect a few strands that appear to tie well together. At one end there is ‘image’, the external manifestation that an individual, a brand, or a company creates and projects. On the other, there is ‘reality’, the core self, the brand essence, or what the company is all about. When the two (image and reality) are united and stand in truth there is genuine being, no pretense, no posturing, no whitewashing or greenwashing.

What is and what is being communicated to others, is aligned. The inner and the outer are in synchronicity and that light shines bright. Possibly even more important, is that light can keep shining, it is sustainable. It does not flare and then run out of fuel. Simply because it is fuelled by an inner truth.

Public relations when practiced with integrity is about finding this inner truth of a company or a brand and then allowing that to shine and touch the world. The problems arise when the external appearance becomes more alluring or important than the inner being and product truth. When likes and shares start becoming more important, the quest for managing appearances overshadows the need to improve the core product or service. It is a slippery slope and so very alluring to go to where the attention is and try to grab some, even if it is not well aligned.

My favourite definition of Public Relations is “PR is doing good and then getting credit for it”. Maybe I should add “being good” into that as well. If the being and the doing are aligned the credit will come. The image will build and a strong reputation will emerge. However, if the focus is always on just “getting credit for it” then the problems begin.

This is when the product reviews turn from 5 stars to cries for help from customers who are not satisfied, which falls on deaf ears. Instead of addressing their asks, the focus moves to make sure the 5-star reviewers shine and the others get silenced. Not by good service, but by drowning their voices out through “clever Online Reputation Management (ORM) work”. This approach to PR may pay short-term dividends but they are all vanity metrics. The reality is no longer matched with the story that we are telling the world. This is a public relations disaster. It is a disservice and will further tarnish brand love and reputation. Why so? Because raised expectations basis (managed and largely untrue, or at least partially true) stories no longer rooted in reality result in unhappy customers and that is bad for business.

This alignment between the inner and outward journey beautifully marries the world of communication and coaching. Looking beyond appearances means looking inward. What actions need to be taken to serve customers (or any other stakeholder) better? The day PR practitioners can offer genuine, meaningful insights and counsel to change brand and company behaviour (in addition to being able to drive great publicity), is the day our profession will shine bright. Then we become true reputation doctors, rather than spin doctors.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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