The 20 Great Truths of Public Relations

As the year comes to a close, I pause to review and reflect on “The Great Truths of Public Relations” — especially with the year we’ve just experienced. Frank Stansberry, PR vet and retired UCF instructor, shared this list with me while pursing my undergrad degree in Ad/PR at UCF. It’s awe-inspiring to see just how relevant these Truths are today, 20+ years from when I first discovered this great PR wisdom.

Incorporate these principles into your own business endeavors and I’m confident you will succeed.

  1. The long-term security of the organization is far more important than the short-term expediency.
  2. Perception is reality, facts notwithstanding.
  3. Unfulfilled expectations create most PR problems.
  4. Planning and preparation are invaluable. When disaster strikes, it’s too late to prepare a crisis plan or build a legacy of trust.
  5. The value of research is inestimable.
  6. Every planned PR program should start and end with research.
  7. Every PR plan should evolve from research.
  8. Research should be conducted every step of the program.
  9. PR needs to always play its position and let other departments play theirs.
  10. Communication must always follow performance.
  11. PR frequently turns on timing. Knowing when to act is as important as knowing what to do.
  12. If your client, product or organization is challenged:
  13. Don’t ignore the challenge.
  14. If the challenge is unfair, fight back as hard as you can.
  15. If the challenge has merit, fight for corrective actions.
  16. The media/PR relationship will never be better than “professional.” There are no favors for free lunches.
  17. Ad hoc pressure groups won’t give up or go away. You have to deal with them or they will consume you in the media.
  18. PR has to be involved from the beginning to have maximum impact.
  19. Full and complete disclosure and communication is the best way to keep from getting greedy when entrusted with the public’s money.
  20. Doing the right thing is more important than doing the “thing right.” There is no such thing as “corporate” ethics. People are either ethical or they aren’t, and these people determine the ethics of the organization.
  21. If you have to say something, the truth is always best.
  22. Appeals to self-interest are seldom unrewarded.
  23. Involvement in the planning stages provides “ownership” and support.
  24. If top management is not sold, the project will never succeed.
  25. Absent trustworthy information, people assume the worst. Rumors thrive in the vacuum of no information.
  26. Most negatives can become positives with a little creative effort and a lot of hard work.

Throughout my career spanning more than 20 years, I’ve turned to these Great Truths over and over and over again to keep myself in check. Each time I review this list I’m reminded of these fundamental best practices. It’s my hope this list provides new insight for you, and challenges you to rethink the power of public relations.