G4S, the company at the centre of the Olympic security fiasco is back in the news again this week because it has apparently started to recruit staff to carry out criminal investigations for a police force.
The Olympics story involving G4S was described by MPs as a ‘humiliating shambles’ and was disastrous from a public relations point of view.
Whilst it was reported in some quarters that bosses at G4S had failed to heed the advice of their public relations company, the whole sorry saga highlights the importance of ongoing PR support – not just calling on crisis communications when the going gets tough.
When the proverbial hits the fan, it is far more straightforward to manage if the company in question has a PR plan in place as well as a positive relationship with key journalists. This is much more likely where companies invest in ongoing PR.
If a crisis occurs, the first thing most journalists will do is ‘google’ the company online. When a company has enjoyed the benefits of good PR, a raft of good stories will show up which provides a bigger, more positive picture.
Ongoing public relations also enables a relationship of trust to form between client and PR company, so the publicity adviser will know instinctively how to handle a crisis situation and eventually turn it around into something more positive.
The public and stakeholders are also much less likely to be swayed by bad publicity if they have read or heard good news stories about a company or organisation previously. It stands to reason that if the first they are hearing is negative, then this will colour their view.
The moral here is to never underestimate the importance of effective, ongoing PR. Many companies are now realising that it is a crucial part of their strategy, not an expensive luxury.
Hopefully G4S will learn by its mistakes.