All communication involves some kind of negotiation. Something as simple as making a request is an example, and we share information with our goal in mind. To an extent, we are all publicists, constantly strategizing about how to display our best qualities to our audience.
Since public relations has communication at its heart, PR relies heavily on negotiation. PR firms employ negotiation skills in their day-to-day work, many without realizing it. Others may fail to see the importance of a negotiation mentality altogether.
Why is having a negotiation mindset so crucial to best practice PR? Here are four aspects of best practice PR that you’ll also find on the best negotiating training courses.
If you’re a public relations pro, taking a negotiating course is usually a smart move. The give-and-take concept is key to PR pros navigating sticky negotiation situations. The better negotiation workshops will highlight this concept right from the start.
Why is give-and-take so important? PR practitioners work with the media to manage clients’ reputations, to place clients’ best features in the spotlight. PR is all about working with other parties, and all negotiations comprise at least two negotiators. PR agencies will be most successful when they’re planning give-and-take conversations. This requires that you be clear on what you’re going to give, as well as what you’re going to ask for in return.
Salvaging reputations is a good example of when give-and-take is necessary. Since PR often involves managing negative news about clients, firms know best practice is to tread carefully when talking with the media about what they plan to publish.
Navigating complex situations with utmost diplomacy is hard enough; practitioners who try to manipulate perceptions without considering the rights and predictable responses of the public will likely soon be out of a job or without their client. Without a give-and-take attitude, the client’s reputation may end up even worse off.
If a high performing PR agency strategically helps clients to communicate with their audience successfully, then the agency will be coloring every interaction with a win-win negotiation mentality.
Public relations is not just about salvaging reputations. It’s also about building them. Clients will share with the PR firm the messages and values they want to get across, trusting the firm to pitch these well-crafted messages to the media. If a journalist has qualms about a story’s impact, that’s an example of when skilled negotiation comes into play. The story may benefit the client, but how will that story be perceived by the public—and the publication printing it?
A win-win situation means all parties walk away with something they want or need: the organization can showcase its positive elements; the media get to have their say on how that’s presented; and the public get a factual representation of a company of which they may someday be a customer.
With a win-win negotiation mentality, PR firms know to work towards a deal that is mutually beneficial.
Negotiation seminars often talk about “creating value”. In other words, at the end of the negotiation, both parties are better off than when they started. Adding value in negotiations usually requires the sharing of information.
If you expect to receive information, you must also be willing to give information. In fact negotiation trainers share that one of the best ways in which to get information, is to start by sharing information. A PR agency that is open about their client’s current position and future goals will most likely receive better insight into the media’s agenda, and how agendas may complement or conflict with each other. Sharing information is an essential route to building or rebuilding trust.
The grocery store chain Whole Foods provides a useful example. Whole Foods’ customers stomach higher prices because they care about buying non-GMO products. When Whole Foods was accused of mislabeling shoppers to believe that their produce was not genetically modified, Whole Foods decided to be more transparent. Currently the chain is working toward full GMO transparency and will be the first national grocery chain to do so. This move is helping its reputation, a win for Whole Foods and its PR team.
Creating value leads to strengthened professional relationships and brand trust. Healthy relationships and brand trust are indispensable ingredients to a PR pro’s success.
Successful PR campaigns demand a mutual understanding of goals and a willingness to listen. Successful PR involves bridge-building and the recognition that a healthy relationship with the media benefits everyone: the client, the media, and the public. When a journalist expresses hesitation about a story the PR firm is promoting, if there’s a trusting relationship in place, their relationship “bridge” more than likely leads to a win-win, and not bridge burning.
Having a trained negotiation mentality will benefit those in the PR field, as the profession utilizes topics found in any good negotiating class: give-and-take conversations, win-win solutions, a desire to create value, and building professional relationships and respected brands.