If you´re going to train your people to be good public information officers, people who can help spread the word about your products and services, don´t rely necessarily on what you think they might know what to say. In other words, don´t leave your strategy up to chance. Each time one of your employees makes contact with a customer or lets people know about the company outside normal business hours they´re representing what the firm stands for.
One easy way to offer tips is to put together a top ten list for putting the company in the most positive lights whenever one is communicating with a customer or someone in the public. You can include obvious tips like "Never complain to a customer about the company" or more subtle hints such as "Smile when you´re handling an angry caller; your sense of calm can help deflect the emotion." The point is: people, no matter what their position might be, have more power and influence than they might otherwise think if you can give them ways to bring more value to their jobs. In other words, give them the guidance and tools they need to publicize your company in the best way possible.
Publicity, or at least getting the kind you want, can be a tenuous endeavor. You don´t really have a whole lot of control over what the media is going to say, but you do have a sense of ownership over how your own people-including you-interact with the public whether it´s the customer on the other end of a phone call or an email exchange. Rather than leave things up to chance, let people know from the get-go what´s expected, what won´t be tolerated, what the consequences might be if people conduct themselves in ways that are not consistent with the company´s philosophy and image.
Just because the finance guy can´t make a direct connection between the spreadsheet he´s creating and his interaction with the public when he´s walking through the county zoo doesn´t mean that public relations isn´t a meaningful part of your strategy. But as I said before don´t expect your people, particularly the technical ones, the people who have very narrow areas of focus, to understand why it´s important.
And don´t assume that just because your company or nonprofit is the next best thing you don´t have to be concerned with your image. It is when business is good that we should be looking over our shoulders for the competition. Actually, we should never stop looking. That, too, should be part of your public relations strategy: most pr experts understand the importance of being extremely current on what the competition is up to.
So, not unlike what they say in that credit card commercial-"What´s in your wallet?"-I´ll ask the question: what´s in your employee development arsenal? Are you covered?