March 1, 2016

The PR is in the Details

As public relations professionals, we read hundreds of emails a day. So you wouldn’t think we’d notice something so small as a misspelled word or an errant comma, but we do. We can make accurate judgments from there. We can tell if someone is cross or pleased or secretly wanting more. We’re kind of like Santa or Siri, and these quick perceptions empower us to make better decisions for our clients over the course of a campaign.

Practicing the business of public relations heightens our sensitivity to how the rest of the world communicates. Gift and curse. Consider the the following send-offs:

“Thank you!”

“Thanks.”

“TY”

Depending on the context, the difference in impact may be dramatic. Any of these could be judged as off-putting or winning even though the essential content is the same. These considerations become magnified when published or broadcast to an audience.

For instance, let’s say you have three minutes on CNBC to discuss a growing part of your business. You may not be able to spare the 3.5 seconds it takes to thank the show hosts on air for inviting you to join them. Given this constraint, how do you effectively (and efficiently) telegraph your friendly, gracious personality while delivering your two or three essential talking points? A smile at the top, a few engaged head nods and a confident but conversational tone can save you precious air time you can invest in your message.

Communications folks are quick with this math, accounting simultaneously for relationship, personality, status, history and conventions of the medium (which, I’ve heard, is the message). We’re hyperaware of invisible variables because we work with them on a molecular level. You send an email; we see the Matrix.

Usually, repeated exposure to a particular stimulus builds immunity, a thick skin. Instead, we’re highly sensitive to the way information is disseminated and received. We’re analyzing every possible misperception so that our clients can avoid them in full. They say doctors make the worst patients; PR practitioners might make the most demanding readers.

That’s a pretty high hurdle to clear on a regular basis. After all, not everyone has the benefit of an experienced communications team on retainer to screen for microscopic transgressions against style, spelling, grammar, connotation, etc. — all the ways you can inadvertently turn off a crowd.

And we’re not simply running defense. We enable companies to articulate themselves effectively on the public stage, connecting their stories with the appropriate audiences and setting off their brands in the best light.

The public notices everything, even if the average reader or viewer isn’t scanning for the chromosomal composition of a talking point. An authentic and compelling message will resonate and create an immediate (and often lasting) impression. That’s reason enough to care.

But as meticulous as we are in how we disseminate content, perhaps even we can be more compassionate in our daily consumption. Either way, you’ll need a proofreader.

By: Kiki Tarkhan