You would have to be living under a rock to miss the swooning coverage of Meghan Markle, fiancée to Prince Harry. From the engagement ring—a diamond from Princess Diana—to the lemon elderflower wedding cake baked by a California native—it all has been covered assiduously by the press and shared in breathless tweets.
Behind the scenes, palace PR teams have been carefully crafting an image for America’s princess. CNN just ran a great story detailing the public relations strategy. It’s a fun and interesting read if you haven’t seen it yet.
The strategy they seem to have settled on? Authenticity. “Megan’s openness fits well with the new image of transparency and normalcy that ‘s been cultivated by the young royals over the past few years,” said CNN.
That’s no surprise. Today’s communications environment demands authenticity. You may invest hours or days carefully scripting speeches for your social executives, but media followers may be more influenced by off-the cuff comments in tweets and Facebook posts than by stage-managed speeches. As the Philadelphia Starbucks learned when the manager called in the police to arrest two patrons, everybody carries their own video camera everywhere, and is ready to document your every move.
What does this mean for nonprofit communicators?
Tell the truth.Don’t be afraid to be outspoken. Admit your weaknesses and explain how you plan to address them instead of hiding them. This strategy went a long way for Starbucks when they chose to close their entire chain of stores for diversity training in response to the recent incident in Philadelphia. The company is still fielding criticism, but they came across as concerned and responsive rather than as refusing to practice the values they preach.
Don’t spend lots of money on slick video production. In this area of smartphone videos, production standards that are rough around the edges convey real world understanding and connection. People are suspicious of slickly produced pieces. More polish can be interpreted as inauthentic. Instead, use that money you saved on production and use it for distribution and promotion to get the word out.
Give your stakeholders a turn at the mic.Amplify the social media posts of yor clients and customers. Ask them if you can share their stories and experiences. Don’t script them into obvious endorsements of your organization—people will see through that. Instead, give them a chance to talk from the heart about the way your organization impacts their lives.
Take the suggestion box seriously.Look for constructive advice in every criticism, and find ways to use it. Be sure to share your appreciation with your critic and you will win their hearts. (But ignore them at your peril.) After all, who doesn’t love to see managers respond to critics on Yelp and Trip Advisor?
Stay true to your values. Fads come and go. Funder interest waxes and wanes. Your issues may trend one year and fall flat the next. Fight the urge to change your mission or message to follow the trends. Keep your communication strategies up to date, but be consistent in communicating clear values. People will respect you for it.