As a member of PRSSA, the greatest benefit I have is being able to go to the monthly PRSA Luncheon. This month was no different. The guest speaker was Greg Flores,vice presidentof communication and community relations with the San Antonio Water System.
The title of the topic was, "Knock, Knock: How to Handle a Reporter with an Agenda." After discussing his own background, Mr. Flores discussed in depth several steps in an organizations' steps to improving social responsibility. He opened and closed with what I took as the most important message. When it comes to social responsibility, "the best spin is no spin." For me, this means that whether I am writing for this blog or working as a professional in an organization, everything I do or say must be a positive reflection of that position.
The first step is to build good, strong relationships with the media. This takes some effort and nurturing. As you are nurturing these relationships you will be building the most important aspect and that is credibility. Especially since it seems as though journalists today work harder to find the negative stories. With this in mind an individual should strive to look for the positive stories within their organization. While being proactive, you are able to provide those positive stories to the press, in the process possibly correcting a negative story headed for print.
Mr. Flores reminded us of the importance of excellent community relations. An organization needs to look at the entire picture, not just within the corporate box. If an organization works with members of different community activist organizations, as is the case with several municipal entities in San Antonio, then it is able to allow the community as a whole to see that it is socially responsible. Part of the community relations is also making sure that the organization is constantly in touch with the outside, again looking past the borders of the organizational box.
Another topic that Mr. Flores discussed also fit into the community relations aspect for me. He suggested that when an organization decides to give, whether it be donating time, money, etc. it should find ways of giving that are not seen everyday. For me an example of this would be the homebuilding corporations that donate their time and resources as is the case on ABC's, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." One final area within community relations that Mr. Flores talked about was how an organization can measure its success. The best way to measure success is to serve the community in whatever ways the organization can. This way, your social responsibility will always be one of the ways the media will remember you, as opposed to only remembering the negative stories about the company.
One of the ways for an organization to be socially responsible is to make sure that their public relations program and the company's mission statement are strategically aligned, This means that if a healthcare organization states in their, "We will strive to provide the best healthcare to the citizens of Bexar County and South Texas," within their mission statement, then every message that their public relations department disseminates should reflect that statement.
Government relations are also very important in the realm of social responsibility. A company must adhere to governmental regulations regarding environmental issues, pricing, and any number of issues. If a company remains on top of all issues that affect their organization then they are nurturing their government relations along with community relations. Within this area I found that it was very true when Mr. Flores pointed out that what an organization says can have very legal consequences.
An important point that Mr. Flores made was that an organizations' own internal relations can play a major role in how they carry out their social responsibility. An example that I remember personally came from when I was a team manager for Sitel Corporation from 1999-2001. My relationship with my employees made a big difference in how they did their jobs in business to business marketing. My own excellent internal relations garnered me several client and corporate recognitions.
I took a great deal away from Mr. Flores' discussion. It was another educational experience which will continue to influence me in my future writings of press releases and public service announcements.