PR is an essential business function for imparting a company’s values and beliefs to the public. Because earned media confers credibility, it can be decidedly more powerful than marketing and advertising. With the public too cynical to buy into ads trumpeting a company’s inherent beliefs, public relations offers that all-important third-party acclaim. If a young company has something special in its DNA like a unique workplace culture, a mission to radically change the industry, or bold opinions on social issues, then communicating these values can be a powerful differentiator.
Here are five PR tactics to get the word out on an organization’s values.
Hitching the wagon to a like-minded organization or influencer can go a long way in communicating values. If a tech company only uses only renewable energy, then it might partner with an environmental group for an issues awareness campaign about the environmental impact of high-tech products. Just as people’s values are often judged by the friends they keep, a company’s associations help inform its public image. Plus, any messaging about the campaign receives wider amplification, since both partners communicate on their owned and shared channels. For example, Patagonia’s partnership with famous climber Tommy Caldwell (“rock climbing ambassador”) reinforces both parties’ values. See this earlier post for more on better PR with third-party partnerships.
Speaking engagements are an effective way to shape executive thought leadership. If a company has developed a unique method for recruiting a diverse workforce, for example, its spokespeople can earn speaking sessions at diversity and inclusion, workplace culture, and HR industry conferences. By consistently educating others the company is putting its values of inclusion on display while boosting brand visibility in a strategic way. Winning unpaid speaking engagements at industry events carries added prestige over sponsored, so they can be worth the extra effort. See this post for more on winning these prime speaking engagements.
By creating its own conference or other media event, a company can make an even more emphatic statement of its values and mission. Crenshaw client Bizzabo, a leading event software company, wanted to take action after research confirmed that tech events overwhelming feature male speakers and attendees to the tune of 70% and 80% respectively. To take action and amplify its push for gender diversity, it created its own women’s leadership half-day conference called Empower, held on International Women’s Day. It’s precisely the type of commitment that could grow into a recognized element of a company’s reputation as an advocate for gender diversity in tech.
When it comes to pitching executive bylines to the media, tech companies naturally tend to focus on topics related to its space and solutions. However, PR teams shouldn’t forget to join conversations related to industry and social issues when relevant. If the executive has a strong or contrarian point of view on topics of evergreen interest, then she should write blog entries, LinkedIn posts, and pitch bylines to key outlets. Of course, the company has to walk the walk before the media will listen to its talk. One of our clients found a powerful platform after it decided to buy back the business from the venture capital company that funded it. It was only after it went through with the transaction that it had the credibility to promote corporate values like independence and reasonable growth (as opposed to VC-cash-fueled hypergrowth.) As with all PR tactics, conversations supported by substance and/or data have a better chance of gaining coverage. See this post for tips on writing stellar bylines.
A bolder way to communicate a company’s value system is through reactive commentary on trending social or political issues. If done well and backed by authentic action, the executive can exert influence while the brand becomes synonymous with a distinct set of beliefs. See this post for more on CEOs embracing corporate activism.
Not all companies focus on beliefs or have a point of view that transcends business. But if a business does have a unique ethos, it should use PR to get the word out. By consistently communicating a coherent set of values through various PR tactics, an organization will gain reputational capital for something substantive that can separate itself from the herd.