ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
January 15, 2010

Community Relationships: Best Practices for Stronger Relationships


One of the more disturbing trends I see in public relations practice, especially in the community relationship building arena, is the over dependence on social media tactics and techniques. To management, PR people seem obsessed with these new techniques. Even managers know that there are many tougher public relations challenges then sitting at a desk pinging people (many of whom you don’t really know) about things they’ve introduced into the conversation.

Because so many members of our profession are captivated and distracted by this new tactical approach to communication, some of the more critical ingredients to building, maintaining and repairing community relationships are being ignored or belittled at best, and minimized at worst.

When the issues are community relationship related, remember:

  1. New media is more of a distraction than a form of engagement. It sucks time that could be put to better use doing more traditional public relations. It’s hard to think of an example where a serious dialogue on matters that are important can be successfully carried out in counter bursts of 140 characters. Community relationships are built on spoken and written communication.
  2. Engagement is the most crucial ingredient in community relationship building. The business of community relationship building and maintenance gets done by human beings meeting face-to-face in a variety of different formats. Real decision making and commitment requires direct confrontation, conversation, contention reduction and eventually agreement.
  3. Use new tools appropriately: (a) Short bursts of positive, correct information can be very helpful; (b) short bursts of crucial questions to be answered in other forums can be helpful and (c) short bursts of real insight into issues, problems, questions or opportunities can be very helpful.
  4. All politics and relationships are local. New media has a tendency to attract and allow players from any jurisdiction to have an impact on your most important problems. Focus on traditional techniques and approaches, and filter out the interference and static caused by the electronic interlopers new media facilitates.

James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEPJames E. Lukaszewski, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CCEP, chairman and president, The Lukaszewski Group Inc., is one of public relations most frequently quoted and prolific authors/crisis communication management consultants. He helps prepare spokespersons for crucial public appearances and local and network news interviews including “20-20,” “60 Minutes,” “Dateline NBC,” “Nightline,” financial analyst meetings, and legislative and congressional testimony. Sign up for Jim’s free Executive Action eNewsletter at www.e911.com.

For more wisdom on gaining community consent, join Jim for his 90-minute teleseminar, Building Community Relationships: Overcome Opposition and Gain Community Consent.

  • http://www.wofw.com Liane Sebastian

    Although I don’t deny that new media is distracting, I disagree that it is more distraction than form of engagement. New media is additive: it actually supports relationships and builds new kinds if done strategically. It can put you in touch with people you couldn’t access before. Twitter is not a good example. The blogosphere is growing in power, wiki groups are gaining influence, and LinkedIn is swelling with new activities. New business applications are being discovered.
    Decision-making can be augmented, not replaced. Your third point feels the most accurate–but more than helpful, relationships begun as engagement can expand into greater collaboration online. Liane Sebastian, wwww.wisdomofwork.wordpress.com

  • http://www.e911.com jlukaszewski

    Liane’s comments are well taken, thank you. My main concern in these matters is to stay as locally focused as possible, and resist the urge to broaden the conversation. The real question is what is the objective for building community relationships.
    If the goals suggest or require broader audiences and participations then, clearly new media approaches are perhaps the most economcal and speedy way to do that.

    Jim Lukaszewski