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PR is the Star of Our Integrated Communications Universe

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You only have one reputation. You need to nurture and protect it carefully and consciously, every day.

Once a reputation, personal or corporate, falls from grace, it’s a long, hard road to remedy it.

Related: 7 Deadly Sins Businesses Make With Their Reputation

To see this lesson in action, look no further than Tom Cruise. A recent LA Weekly piece chronicles how the actor went from media-shy talent to Hollywood “poison,” even as he continues to smash box-office records.

Cruise’s problems began with his now infamous stand on Oprah’s couch in 2005 and several other unfiltered media commentaries, but were exacerbated by other events. YouTube launched just weeks before the Oprah appearance, providing the infrastructure for video to “go viral” overnight.

The typically media-shy Cruise decided to finally open up, without the filter of a fiercely protective PR rep. Unfortunately for Cruise, it turned out people didn’t like what he had to say. Despite making 32 percent of Paramount’s revenue from 2000-2006, studio chief Sumner Redstone ended their 14-year professional relationship solely based on Cruise’s declining reputation, and in spite of the actor’s two most recent movies being among his most successful.

Our digital environment requires a highly integrated approach to communications. While you may not have to protect yourself like a Hollywood star, public relations still needs to be at the core of everything you do. You can’t be afraid of the changes and challenges of communications. In fact, you better get on board quickly because in an era of change, innovation and new technologies, the way people receive and process information is always evolving. You have to embrace the changes, hire the right experts and, above all, be a critical, proactive thinker. 

Sometimes, being proactive means doing nothing. That’s okay, as long as you have thoroughly assessed the risks and benefits of staying silent. It’s the non-planners who believe, “That won’t happen to us,” “We’ll just handle it the same way we handled it in 2001,” and “Our clients aren’t influenced by what they read online,” who find consistent and unavoidable trouble that threatens their brands, revenues and future growth.

Reputation destruction is rampant in today’s digital world. Mitt Romney didn’t know a phone video recorder was on at a 2012 fundraiser when he said “My job is not to worry about those people.” Twitter flubs are relentless. JP Morgan, upon hiring a controversial new executive, invited questions via its #AskJPM campaign. It received questions like “What section of the poor & disenfranchised have you yet to exploit for profit?” Cruise likely couldn’t imagine that 15 seconds of a 45 minute interview would hugely impact his reputation, especially when he had spent most of his career protecting and managing his personal brand with the help of a trusted pro.

Cross-channel consistency is key. Public relations and, more specifically, reputation management, is good business, plain and simple. The challenge is telling your brand story consistently across every channel that matters to the targets you want to reach: digital, print and broadcast. That’s where integrated communications comes in to play. What is covered in one media venue, gains new life in a host of others--broadcast to internet, social to print--and round and round it goes.

The goal is to plan for and exploit this “second life”--and sometimes third and fourth--in a proactive way. Never a “one-off” solution, an integrated approach to communications is strategically mapped out, carefully planned and squeezes your marketing investment across every channel to protect your reputation and, congruently, drive sales.

Crafting a strategic integrated communications plan is step one. Whatever tactics you incorporate into your plan, you’ll need the following best practices:

Related: Implement a PR Strategy in 7 Days

1. Leverage content. Content is king and it’s highly spreadable. Rework and reword your investment in content to create the sound-bites, tweets, blogs, talking points your integrated communications plan needs to run effectively. Create an editorial calendar to keep your content centralized and aligned with your overarching communications plan and other opportunistic events and dates, such as changing seasons and holidays.

2. “Snowden” your intellectual property. While this may sound a bit NSA-ish, record your internal communications. You and your team are smart. Capture every brainstorm and create a library to draw from to feed your communications campaign.

3. Visualize.  Appeal to busy professionals with images that speak to the viewer instantly: infographics, a Vine-esque video vignette, photos from an event. Seeing is believing.

4. Socialize strategically. Create a strategy for social, then always be curating. Include equal parts news of the day, reactions and how your core messages tie in.

5. Blog obsessively. Blogs are the backbone of any social media campaign. If you don’t have the time to write them yourself, engage an outsourced writing expert who understands the trends that affect your business.

6. Be prepared. Write down and map out specifically how your company would respond to any sized problem. This step is like insurance. You hope you never need it, but you enjoy peace of mind because you have it.

7. Check in regularly. Stay on top of your strategic goals and objectives. Review metrics methodically, then tweak your integrated communications plan as needed. Put dates on the calendar to make sure you stay focused while remaining nimble to marketplace happenings.

How does your brand reap the rewards of a clear and consistent message? What integrated communications tactics are critical to your marketing mix? I’d love to hear from you.

Related: Developing a PR Plan

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