Most companies, big and small, have accepted the inevitability and importance of a proactive public relations strategy. PR can aid in building brand equity, improving hiring prospects, educating the public, developing credibility and increasing brand awareness, all of which will eventually lead to sales. Yet too often, startups and established companies wait until a crisis hits to think through their perception issues and how to use PR to their advantage. It’s not uncommon for my crisis communications clients to tell me that they wish they had hired me before they had a problem.
Strategic public relations is often the only tool at the disposal of a company in crisis, and the same goes for your own personal brand. Below I’ve outlined three ways to start doing PR for yourself to avoid a personal crisis.
1. Make your boss aware of what you’re doing.
I recently spoke with a group of professional women and I asked them ‘does your boss understand your job and what you do all day?’ and more than half of the room laughed. Some may consider that job security, but I think it’s a major issue if your superiors don’t understand your role and bandwidth. In fact, I think it’s one reason why there is a gender pay gap. Women are stereotypical doers and often don’t make a point to highlight their accomplishments or how busy they are at work.
I realized quickly in a new role that my boss had no idea how much I was tackling each day and more importantly, wasn’t aware of the results I was producing. I requested an assistant, and because I hadn’t sounded the alarms about how overwhelmed I was, my boss was really confused. I remember thinking ‘doesn’t she know what I do all day? Hasn’t she seen what I produce?’ But of course the answer was no, she was the chief of staff for a prominent politician and had enough on her plate.
I decided to help her understand what I was getting done each week with an informal email report on Friday mornings. I didn’t tell her it was coming but just divided a quick email up into four sections; weekly wins, areas of improvement for my team, what was coming next week and what I needed from her. Instantly, our communications became more useful, and she expressed to me how helpful it was to understand what I was doing. And I got an assistant.
If your boss doesn’t know what you do all day, consider a few ways to change that. Don’t get caught up in your boss understanding how busy you are, but rather on educating about your results and where their support may be useful. You want your boss to be able to clearly understand your value. If something happens, or staffing changes need to be made, you want to make sure your boss knows you’re irreplaceable.
2. Build brand equity with your coworkers.
I like to do my job and then have a life completely separate from work, but I’ve learned how important it is to have allies at your company and in your network in general. I believe that being liked by the people you work with, or for, is typically more important than the results you produce. I bet you know a past or current coworker who wasn’t very good at their job, but because they were fun and popular they got promoted. Consider how you may be able to improve your network of allies at work, whether it be starting a lunch club, spending a few minutes before a meeting bonding over a show you know your coworker likes, or writing a note to a colleague thanking them for their guidance on a project.
If something goes wrong at work, you will need people to stand up and defend you. One of my goals is to be the type of person that people always want to give the benefit of the doubt to, regardless of the situation. This requires a network of allies that you also stand up for, which will also help when you’re up for a promotion or want a raise.
The way I like to think of it is that I want an ally at every level. It’s important that your boss respects you, but also important that the entry level employees respect you too. Take a quick mental inventory of who your allies are and what you can do to help keep them in your corner.
3. Keep track of your success.
One of the great things about letting your superiors know about your work on a regular basis is that you have a record of your success and improvements. Too often we rely on others to remember that great win we had six months ago, or to understand what we’re capable of based on our experience. I frequently urge my public relations clients to update the press and their customers about small product updates and improvements. While it may not cause a reporter to write a story right away, it keeps us on their radar. The same goes for the people you work with.
For an annual review one year, I put together a fun infographic about my department’s success. I made sure to focus on the great work of my team and how far we’d come over a short period of time. This visual cue to my boss showed that I was a true team player but also helped to show how far we’d come.
Public relations principles apply just as much to your personal career as they do an established company, and you don’t want to end up regretting not putting your name out there sooner. Start now by building your own brand that you’re proud of and want to stand by in a crisis.