|Living in a previous century|
I wore the uniform.
A dark blue or pinstripe suite, company tie and shiny shoes.
I played rugby but left the language of rugger on the rugby field.
I worked for quite a large private limited liability company.
Most days I met the Chairman during the day and Managing Director at the close of play.
We seldom talked about press coverage (except at monthly review meetings). It was pretty much a formula designed to inform prospective customers and customers and a host of other groups in industry, our industrial sector, employees, local and professional communities, competition, banks and the City.
That is not to say we did not work hard on media relations. Typically it included two feature stories per month. One, a case study of our products in action and one about one of the functions of the company (e.g. it might be a perspective on Health and Safety, Regulatory Affairs, Global Markets, the economy etc.) We built up a significant library. Across the media, their editorial features offered us an opportunity to use our library and so we re-wrote stories in our library to provide such editorial copy. In all, we probably issued 20 releases per month of which most had a single journalist as the target and mostly it was a response to a request or editorial need.
The primary measure of media relations was comparative positive and negative share of voice. Among our competitors, we seldom came second in positive and almost never ranked in negative coverage in the relevant media.
We encouraged prospective customers and key publics such as suppliers, professional groups, politicians, community groups, trades unions, schools, competitors, journalists etc to visit our premises. Emplyees with the closest relationship with such groups would be host such as sales managers, finance director, purchasing director etc. Only R&D was out of bounds and so every department was always prepared to receive visitors. 'You find us as we are', was a necessary disclaimer but woe betide the scruffy department.
To help this process the Public Relations Department worked with every department to describe what they did and what their plans were (well, except for commercially sensitive information) in a company briefing document. It was an 'open' document and was the definitive document covering everything including financial reports, history and biographies of the directors.
It was a very plain looking document. It was a public relations document an so did not have all the bling of a marketers publicity stunt.
The PR department also ran open days for prospective customers, existing customers and all the other groups with an interest in the company, including the press. It also included tours of the facilities (over a quarter mile of factories and offices). Directors and senior managers were available to talk about almost anything but always deferred to our experts. For example, I would answer factual questions (from the briefing dossier) about finance but for anything else, I would call on the FD to comment.
It was a public relations policy that staff should be members of work-related professional and community groups. In this way we contributed to the wider community and built up a groundswell of positive, trustworthy relations.
I used to go to Town, District, and County Council meetings and some committees. I met local MP's at local events (and often hosted their events using our facilities). I maintained a dialogue with councillors and Parliamentarians on matters that affected the company, our industry and business at large. This was not a barrage of demands or briefing notes but conversations at events or 'gossip' with their PA's and researchers.
We always asked for feedback and tracked the responses. Everything we did had some sort of measure and results were shared with all the directors as a matter of PR policy.
As a consequence, the Public Relations department was the internal and external eyes and ears of the company and helped guide a network of people in their role as ambassadors.
And then came the Internet...and that was fun and is a different story.