Thursday, September 08, 2005

Woodwork Companies 

This is a topic on which I have written before, but it is time to mention it again. I was wondering yesterday about a former client that decided to disappear from the national scene. The company had never been comfortable in the media spotlight, and it had been trapped in a horrible crisis not of its own making. The crisis scarred the firm, and it stopped working with the media. It went silent, and I suspect it shall remain so for years but for earnings announcements and press releases on contracts and personnel changes.

When I first started in PR, this attitude was looked upon as wrong, and we would predict disasters for companies that failed to engage with reporters. Over the years, however, I have bumped into companies that preferred to remain silent, and they were just as successful out of the public eye as they were in it. Their CEOs asked why they should deal with the press. I used to give them standard PR arguments, but it occurred to me that I was being dogmatic. The answer is that as long as everything went well, they didn't have to deal with reporters. They could remain woodwork companies and enjoy anonymity. I recall this wasn't an answer that my bosses wanted to hear when I first began giving it. I was supposed to be SELLING business and not walking away.

But, there are hundreds of unknown public companies in America and tens of thousands of private ones. They know their customers: Their customers know them. That's all the PR they need or want. Only a few companies by the nature of their business must deal with the media constantly -- and they do. This means, of course, that media relations, the core of most PR activity, is a niche business. That's not a comfortable thought for many practitioners, but it is one they should remember.

Not silent. Out of the press but not silent.
That is what really stunning PR is about.
It involves knowing the networks relevant to the client and the communications channels that are available in those networks and having an offereing and values that create added value for people in the networks.
I bet their salesfolk are great.

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