Trust, I believe, is the most important commodity in business. As a PR you’re always trying to reach the heady heights of ‘trusted adviser’ status with a client.
PR’s an interesting industry in that while it’s all about helping organisations manage their reputations, it doesn’t have its problems to seek when it comes to its own image.
So, as a newly-hatched (three weeks ago, in my case) business how do you go about establishing the sort of trusted status which larger and more established PR firms enjoy, seemingly as a birthright.
Here’s my seven-point plan:
1. Trust others yourself: the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them, as Ernest Hemingway once said.
2. Be nice. It really does help if you’re one of the good guys. Not just someone who turns it on for clients but a fair-dealer who is honest, has integrity and gets results. It also helps if you’ve always been like this…you’d be surprised how many people you know – who are only too glad to help – when you start up your own company.
3. To use a phrase from yesteryear: don’t hide your light under a bushel. When setting up my business I approached a variety of contacts to recommend me on LinkedIn. Twenty-eight did, gladly. That sort of third party endorsement speaks volumes.
4. Similarly, if you’ve won lots of awards: tell people. Yes, you have to enter awards programmes to win them but the judging process is always robust and only the best work wins. What better way of demonstrating you get results.
5. Share. Gone are the days when PRs jealously guarded their secrets so clients couldn’t do things themselves or competitors couldn’t nick their ideas. A combination of Google and social media has changed all this. Share everything (within reason:O); be generous with your knowledge. The motivation? A combination of being nice and enlightened self interest…potential clients want to know that you know what you’re talking about before they waste valuable time actually talking to you. Make it easy for them.
6. Get yourself a good branding expert/website designer. I did. As a fledgling company your website is your calling card: you need a vibrant content-driven SEO-friendly whizzer not a damp squib.
7. Lastly, for all fans of the dropped intro, learn. I’ve learned more in the last three months than I have in the last three years. I’ve attended umpteen courses, read 10 books, picked up a raft of new skills…every day’s been a school day. Continuing professional development I believe it’s called. I’ve also rejoined my professional trade body, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), an organisation in which I was fairly active in the late Noughties, serving as a committee member in Scotland for around five years. And if there’s a bauble to be had, grab it. As of today I’m a CIPR Accredited Practitioner. I hope, for me, this will put the icing on the trust cake.
One final thought, be proud to be a PR man or woman. There’s nothing ignoble about representing a third sector organisation or indeed, helping a client to sell more product and make more money. Clients will only trust us if we treat our profession seriously…even at the ripe old age of 41 I must admit to a skip in my step when walking through Charing Cross this afternoon and getting the email confirmation that I’d become an Accredited Practitioner. It made me proud: trust me, I’m a PR man.