By Rachel Gattuso
I admit: I’m a chronic rule follower. I get anxiety when I go outside of the rules, but at least it has kept me honest in the world of communications.
Regardless of your role, one day you’ll be in a position to communicate your stance, position, product or intellectual property to your many audiences. That makes you a de facto communicator. Welcome to the club! We meet often (and sometimes with cocktails).
One of the most vital components of your company’s brand is its integrity, and because the internet fact checks at the speed of light these days, it’s prudent to take steps to ensure the information you make public is beyond reproach before releasing it.
To help you safeguard that integrity, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Be a Chronic Rule Follower
If you’re reading this today and have not yet heard the phrase “alternative facts,” I’m impressed (even if I just brought it up). But seriously, while interpretations of facts may vary, any deviation from facts unseat that item from its position as truth. If you’re going to integrate numbers, don’t inflate them. If you’re asked what someone else in your company’s position might be and you don’t know it, don’t speak for him or her. If a reporter asks a question and you don’t know the answer, you can tell them you don’t know at this time but will follow up with them (but you do need to follow up).
It boils down to honesty, which is best said by Jane Dvorak, APR and chair of PRSA Society for 2017. “Truth is the foundation of all effective communications. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers, clients and employees.”
Word Choice Matters
Try to train yourself in your day-to- day conversations not to incorporate words that have become commonplace. For example, how do you verify that today’s was “literally” the best sandwich ever? Is that photographer friend of yours really “the best” in the region? If you state that they are, you’ve now invited the debate. The wiser strategy might be to reference them as “one of the best you’ve seen.” It may seem trivial to check yourself here, but you’ll get into the habit of questioning what words you’re about to use. Small changes in your speech habits will trickle into what you promote for your business and how you connect with clients. Audiences will appreciate less inflation and more sincerity.
Bow Out or Ditch It
If you don’t know the answer, that’s ok. If you’re not a subject matter expert, don’t position yourself as one. You can refer your customers to the right place to look for information, or you bridge the gap and bring a subject matter expert to them to speak to the topic at hand.
If your company has made a claim for years but you can’t seem to find the claim’s origins, ditch it. Stop making the said claim if you can’t find proof. Set the precedent that you value credibility more than ego.
Remember the Public Interest
Less tactical and more sentimental, remember that your end goal should always be the public’s interest. If you hold that high on a pedestal, your communications with said public will follow suit.
The Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics offers even more ways you can safeguard your professional and corporate brand integrity. View them here and learn more about PRSA at prsasierra.org.
Rachel Gattuso is the marketing and communications manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities® Northern Nevada and the current President of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. She is also a chronic rule-follower.