Three Not So Surprising Things Public Relations Can’t Fix

By now, we are all in agreement that Public Relations (PR) is important for any brand that wants to remain relevant. At least, we hope so! As important as PR is however, it is not a magic wand that can fix everything that is broken in an organisation.

The truth is that if there are deep, foundational issues within an organisation, this will frustrate any kind of PR effort. So, instead of expending your energy on trying to perform ‘magic’, we have curated a list of three (not so surprising) things that PR cannot fix for any organisation

Poor customer experience

You can double check this anywhere – one of the main reasons why companies get a bad rating on public polls and surveys is poor customer service. Bad customer service leaves a terrible memory in the mind of a consumer. It is also the fastest way to burn bridges with a customer and be called out out on social media. And you know what happens when brands get called out on social media.

While PR can be leveraged to do damage control, this will be meaningless if there is a consistent track record of poor customer service. A great PR campaign cannot solve that problem. In fact, a bad encounter with an uninformed and impolite customer service rep will erase whatever results a good PR campaign brings.

Instead of trying to whitewash the situation with PR, what that organisation needs is to become more customer-centric and prioritise the experience consumers have across all touch points. As a PR professional, you need to point that out before you are blamed for something that is not in your power to fix.


Poor Branding

In the competitive media landscape we find ourselves in, first impressions are everything. It takes a few seconds for consumers to decide if they want to engage with a brand just by assessing its brand identity. If an organisation has a shady name, an unimpressive logo or an uninspiring visual identity, this is a huge turn off.

Yes, you can do PR to try to change the perception and win consumers over but you’ll spend less energy (and money) when the foundational issue is fixed first. Better branding will help your PR activities. Poor branding on the other hand will be a stumbling block in your desire to achieve results. If what that brand requires is a refresh of their brand identity, by all means recommend that before you are left with the task of pushing forward a brand with good content but bad packaging.


Performing below your brand’s expectations

Any organisation that makes certain promises or guarantees to its customer should ideally ensure that they deliver on those promises. But we know that is not always the case and that in itself can become a PR headache.

If your organisation has a brand promise or claim that it cannot fulfill, you cannot use PR to fix that. The executives in that organisation need to re-evaluate their commitment to delivering on what they have promised their consumers. Without that executive level buy in and commitment, any PR effort to ‘manage’ the situation can be likened to putting a band aid on a festering wound.

A bonus point – A bad corporate culture

If an organisation has a bad corporate culture, PR cannot be used to cover up that fact. You can do your great campaigns or employee engagement activities but if the corporate culture remains bad, you just need to face the truth. Rather than burying the existence of a bad corporate culture under the glamour of PR, you need to advise the organisation to deal head on with this problem. When the organisation has a good corporate culture, certain things will be easy for you to do as a PR professional. You won’t struggle to get brand advocates among the employees, neither will you have to deal with the headache of an internal crisis waiting to explode.

Don’t try to fix a problem that an improved customer service or better corporate culture will solve. Remember, you are not a magician that does the impossible!


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