Would You Buy A Used Car From This PR Firm?

A week after the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, it’s still easy to think about the 2018 Conference pillar of trust.

In full disclosure, the Conference’s organizer, the Detroit Regional Chamber is a Tanner Friedman client and I serve as a primary media contact for journalists covering the annual gathering of Michigan’s business, political and nonprofit leaders, along with experts from around the country. In fact, that is one of the reasons why trust is still top of mind.

At the Conference, speakers touched on ideas for restoring trust in our nation’s institutions, such as government and media, which is an especially difficult task given the President of the United States’ daily effort to undermine the trust and credibility of seemingly everyone he views as a threat to his power, from news organization to the FBI. But day to day, in business, especially the PR business, we have opportunities to gain or lose trust, with those we serve. That includes our clients and professionals in the media who we want to depend on us for access and information.

In private conversations on Mackinac Island, I heard from journalists who have lost trust in certain PR firms. “I automatically delete everything they send me,” I heard about one. “I can’t trust them to deliver what they promise,” said a reporter about another. That reflects poorly on all of us.

Any time there are business people gathered, we hear stories of firms that charged a fat monthly retainer, nickel and dimed on expenses and barely did any work before they got fired, leaving clients to swear off ever hiring another one. Upon introduction to others at events, when they learn of our profession, we always hear from one or two about “spin,” with their impressions formed from political podiums.

All of that comes down to trust and impacts everyone trying to build and maintain a career in PR.

I won’t take for granted that when asked for information at the Conference, journalists took my word for it and immediately included it in their reporting. We appreciate that clients put trust in us to help them plan their Conference experiences, listening to us when we advised them on which sessions to attend and which interviews to grant, knowing that we were working in their best interests.

The list of institutions in need of an injection of trust isn’t limited to media, government or big corporations. The PR business, and, in particular, agencies, should be on there too. Our ability to make a living in the near term and build meaningful career paths for younger professionals with an interest in this field depend on that imperative.