Take notes new startups: there should be a Chief Public Relations Officer CPRO position in startups, which would be the third ranking officer below the CEO and COO. Allow me to make the case for this role.
It only takes one bad decision in your life to completely change its projected trajectory. Similarly, you can build a brand that is strong and reliable for 25 years, and in a total of 30 minutes it can be completely demolished. Reputation is a perception which impacts your brand directly. Every decision that you make is important. If you tarnish your reputation, it may take forever to rebuild, and that's only if customers allow you to amend it. Because, some mistakes are too severe to forgive, cue Jeffrey Epstein. Let's take a look at some recent examples that PR had to fix. If they were more involved in the decision making, they likely would not have happened.
A recent PR coverup is when the NFL kicked Colin Kaepernick out of the league for kneeling during the national anthem to bring awareness to the #BLM movement. The NFL finally released a statement regarding the movement and stood by it. Because of the way the NFL treated Kaepernick, the public will generally assume that they are not being genuine as a result. The only way to right the wrong is to give the Kaep an opportunity to play again. After all, he was a starting quarterback on a superbowl team at one point in his young career. Your ratings will go up, the same way Kaep's Nike shoe sold out in seconds. Even NASCAR made the decision to remove their confederate flags from their race tracks. Come on Brian McCarthy, give him a fair chance if you are standing by the below statement.
Another example I will bring up to show the importance of Public Relations is from Starbucks. Recently it was leaked that upper management sent out a newsletter to its employees deauthorizing the use of #BLM apparel. Below is the newsletter.
As a result, there was a major uproar from the public, mostly Twitter activists. The person that was in charge of the decision does not have a background in Public Relations. Zing Shaw's title is Global Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer. In her position, she is focused solely on the safety of the employees. She made the right initial decision, to protect the employees, but a Public Relations Officer would review perceptions of ALL publics. A CPRO would talk to the employees and the communities, including ones outside of Seattle, to determine the impact of the decision. After all, it is acceptable to support the LGBTQ+ movement as a Starbucks employee. Certainly you can identify with the rights of any ethnicity in the country coined the melting pot. Respect to Starbucks for reversing their decision, luckily enough for them, they acted swiftly enough that it may not have a large enough damage to their reputation and people will still pay $5 for a latte.
Part of the problem is that Public Relations is often not considered to be a valuable position within a company. According to glassdoor, the average compensation is around 44k/year. That's disrespectful for an industry and is proof that PR is undervalued. Take a look at the roles required by Public Relations Professionals below.
PR Goal: Develop and maintain goodwill with all of its publics
1. Manage Relationships with the Publics
prospective / potential customers
government / legislators
2. Manage Reputation
3. Community Involvement
5. Event Planning for Publics
6. Public Affairs / Lobbying
Necessary PR Skills include:
1. Writing for all Platforms
2. Pro Communications = disclose more than withhold information
3. Advocacy = stand up, or 'take a knee' for what the company believes in
4. Ethics = do the right thing like Spike Lee
5. Take Risks = stick your neck out courageously when necessary
6. Listen = even when the executives don't
7. Remain Positive Mindset / Energy in a highly stressful environment
8. Awareness of Relevant Current Events
9. Manage and Direct a bunch of 'think they know it alls'
10. Remind Executives Honesty is Always the Best Policy
Some startups have a CCO, a Chief Communications Officer, but that person is not necessarily a reputation management expert. They are a communications expert. A CPRO is a moral and ethical compass, a guide. Always doing what's right, learning from any mistakes, and minimizing any crises that ultimately empower growth. All reasons why a CPRO should be the third ranking officer behind the CEO and the COO. I leave you with a quote from Warren Buffett:
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently" -
Thanks to a really great friend and mentor, whom once beat me in tennis, George Harrison for enlightening me on, what I view as, the most important role in ANY business.