Sleep Tight 3CMA

By Kristi Northcutt
Director Communications & Public Affairs
Anthem Community Council, Arizona

In a public forum I was recently asked what some “emerging and important PR topics were in today’s society.” I paused only momentarily, taken a little aback by the question, and answered, “every topic is important to PR in today’s society.”

I wasn’t being flippant. I went on to say not only “PR topics” matter. For instance, the mental health of our residents and employees is important; are they being cared for, nurtured and helped in times of need? If a mass shooting occurs or a suicide, that ultimately is a PR issue. Many of us heard from Julie Hill of the City of Virginia Beach at the annual 3CMA conference about just how true that is.

Once the room was quiet, almost appalled at my response, I said that politics were an important PR issue – national, state, local and internal. “How is that a PR issue?” someone asked. Good gravy, folks–how is it NOT? What about diversity and inclusion, the latest trends in technology, the color of paint we choose for a new amenity…seriously, EVERY topic has PR undertones.

But the people we serve don’t think the same way we do. They think PR is a completely different animal than it is. Even if PR isn’t in your title, it’s a huge part of what you do. Are you protecting your city/county’s brand and reputation or the reputation of your council members and executive leaders? How’s the budget going? Are you bracing for the next recession and how it will impact your community? How will the Census affect your city? Are you setting the tone for the discourse in your community; is it positive or negative and are you thinking of the PR issues that will domino from your answer? 

There’s no wonder it’s hard for us to sleep at night.

Relating to the public is more than responding to comments on social media. It’s getting involved in the conversations that take place at the coffee shop, the post office, the grocery stores and the library. Are you listening to what parents are saying at their kids’ games? What is their tone? Are you relating to the public with the programs you’re offering and the collateral pieces you produce? Is your website written in a friendly tone with beautiful photos or does it feel like a police or medical report? Are you considering the fallout from decisions made at EVERY level of your organization? Are other departments consulting you about what possible fallout may be? Are you sitting around the table and talking about it together? 

If you’re not doing all these things, now is the time. It’s time for others to realize that every topic is a PR topic. Get a seat at the table. 

We are the voice and face of our communities, whether out in front or ghostwriting for our leaders. As communicators we touch everything, and everything is a PR issue. But don’t lose too much sleep. Remember that you have a robust network of people who are all losing sleep over the same issues. Reach out and ask for advice. 

We’ll be your sheep; count on us.