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Emily Post’s Guide to Public Relations

Published on October 9, 2019, at 4:40 p.m.
by Carlyle Ascik.

When I was a little girl, watching my mother prepare for dinner parties was captivating. Like a magician, she would turn our homework-cluttered kitchen table into a whimsical display of appetizers accompanied by tiny utensils and playfully printed napkins. As friends and family arrived, I would watch from her side as she welcomed and doted on each guest. She was always on top of it — effortlessly fixing anything that went awry — and when it came time for the guests to leave, she sent them along with a smile (and a box of leftovers, of course).

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

If you ask my mother about her exquisite hostessing skills, she will humbly reply that this description is an exaggeration; however, if you persist, she will chalk up everything she knows to “Etiquette” by Emily Post. While this guide to American manners was once reserved for luncheons and business affairs, the modern public relations professional may have more in common with the classic hostess than you think. Post’s rules that were originally intended for dinner parties can also be seamlessly applied to the current PR industry.

Always be timely.
According to Post, being fashionably late is never in good taste. The same goes for the public relations industry. As we all know, timing is everything when planning a strategy. From pop-up events to newsworthy pitching, if you don’t execute at just the right time, you will likely miss a golden opportunity. Be sure to reference industry and world news the next time you’re deciding when to launch a campaign.

Prepare for the unexpected.
Just like a hostess should prepare for a surprise plus one or a spilled glass of red wine, PR practitioners should never assume everything will go as planned. Whether your client is a local bakery or a national bank, you should always be prepared with a crisis communication plan to combat any sudden issues.

Lead the conversation.
A good host knows how to work a room. In that same vein, PR professionals should know how to navigate an industry. In order to distinguish your client’s organization from its competitors, you must establish it as a thought leader in its field. Write blogs and share articles that show your key publics that you have your finger on the pulse of industry trends.

Never underestimate a “thank you.”
From a vase of flowers to a simple note, people inherently enjoy being thanked. Public relations efforts are designed to build relationships with key publics that keep them loyal to an organization or brand. Don’t neglect the value in replying to a consumer’s tweet or sending a voucher to a loyal customer — sometimes the little things make the largest impact.

Photo courtesy of Town&Country

Post once said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Swap the word “manners” for “public relations” and the same message rings true. As public relations practitioners, we need to be keenly aware of the wants and needs of our target market. So next time you sit down to craft a communications plan, consider taking some advice from the queen of etiquette.

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