In Public Relations, our success is measured in many ways, whether by, for example: (a) driving the number of impressions that hit our target audiences to increase visibility, (b) successfully saving an image through crisis management or (c) changing people’s perceptions through the successful execution of a campaign. The list goes on, but something that is not measured, and yet has a huge impact in everything we do, is relationships.
To be clear, PR is not about being good with people. I cringe every time I hear someone describe what we do in that manner. Nevertheless, our ability to foster solid relationships is extremely important. These are not built overnight but over years (sorry Millenials, but you can’t beat your more experienced colleagues in this one). It takes time to earn trust from colleagues, media, corporate and community leaders. It takes time to build relationships that are stronger than any client you represent or any company you work for. This is a value that can’t be measured, but if it could be translated into a Return On Investment (ROI), it would surpass all measurements.
By way of illustration:
- Having a good relationship will assure that your contact’s public official is present at your event; a great relationship will allow for your contact’s public official to recognize your organization in a public ceremony.
- A good relationship will permit your contact to cover one of your events because it’s newsworthy to their audience, a great relationship will have your contact cover an event because it’s you that’s doing the invitation.
- A good relationship will make your contact consider incorporating your company in a campaign they’re working on; a great relationship will have your contact highlight your company in their campaign as an example of true commitment.
These relationships will be there for you when it’s time to show your boss or client that you can deliver. So what does it take to build solid business relationships? You need to exhibit 5 crucial characteristics:
- Diplomacy: Though we would like to think that everyone has an open mind, the reality is that many are very set on their beliefs and thus bringing up politics or religion, especially in the early stages of a relationship, can drive a wedge of separation if the opinions between both are very different. Stay away from those topics, and focus on listening and learning, before you open your mouth and unintentionally offend them.
- Trustworthiness: There’s nothing more important than trust in any relationship and nowhere is this more true than in business. Don’t fail this person by divulging information they shared in confidence. While you may attempt to rationalize that it was necessary for whatever reason, the loss will be irreparable.
- Loyalty: So many people are dumbfounded when they realize that people were there for them only because they held a specific position. It took them being laid off to figure out who their true “friends and colleagues” really were. Relationships are between people, not organizations; the contact that left today will be in another position in the future. Don’t burn bridges.
- Dependability: There’s nothing worse than doing business with flaky characters. They make large promises, but they seldom come through. It’s no surprise that they find themselves all alone when they’re in a crisis, with no one to back them up. If you want someone to come through for you, then be dependable and come through for them. Be a person of word.
- Humanity: Though at the end of the day, business is just business, you can’t expect to build a solid relationship if your heart is not in it. If you are superficial and only present for the day to day job, then you miss out on achieving a deeper level of comradery with your colleagues. Don’t forget to be human.
Throughout the past 25 years of my career, I have been blessed with having built many wonderful business relationships. They know that I am here for them, as they are for me, no matter where our individual professional paths take us. There is no greater value for that type of ROI.