In business, first impressions count, so let’s do the math. A good first impression + a good reputation = networking for success. Anyone who is involved in public relations needs to understand the value of not only creating good first impressions but lasting ones too, since every interaction you or your PR staff have with the media and the public at large all adds up to the overall perception others will hold of you and your business. In other words, a healthy business reputation = a healthy bottom line.

The famous quote, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” by world renown investor Warren Buffett holds true in many more ways than one.

30 Seconds to Mars

When engaging with the public or the media bear in mind that people’s opinions of you are formed within the first 30 seconds upon initial meeting. In this case, it’s not so much that time is of the essence, rather time makes up the essence of what people will do next. Will they stay in your orbit or embark upon the next shuttle to Mars? 30 seconds is all you have so make the most of it. How should one go about this you might ask?

Make a good first impression by using the 5 B’s:

• Be on time. Tardiness is a sure sign of poor
planning on your part and shows that you do not
respect or value the other person’s time.
• Be yourself. Others will quickly see right
through you if you try to put a mask over what
is really going on.
• Be sincere. Remember that sincerity builds
• Be positive. Being positive creates an
environment that encourages positive engagement.
• Be courteous. People don’t always remember what
you said, but they will always remember how you
made them feel.
• Be brief. Stay focused and try to refrain from
veering away from the topic. Remember that you
are making an introduction, not delivering a

I’m gonna get dressed for success and look sharp

The band Roxette had a huge hit in the late 1980s with their song ‘Dressed for Success’ which featured on their second album entitled ‘Look Sharp’. The band’s intention may not necessarily have been to address how one should dress for business success yet, seen from the outside in, dressing for success and looking sharp will definitely create a good first impression and move your ratings up the charts towards becoming a huge No. 1 hit yourself.

The power of the written word

The power of the written word goes a long way towards showing the world what you can do. Business letters, proposals, reports, executive summaries and your website and other online platforms need to be of a high standard in order to demonstrate your ability to communicate ideas, make statements and articulate decisions.

Employee communications

There is another significant part of the PR process that we simply cannot avoid mentioning. That is, the task of handling employee communications. As such, when something major happens within a small company or even a large organisation, the first port of call that should be visited is the internal port, that is the staff or employees of the company. Because staff can be likened to the lifeblood of the company, to be able to address the staff effectively is of paramount importance.

Death by email

There are numerous effective ways to deal with employee communications and invariably, there are right ways and wrong ways to tackle internal PR. Tackling situations the wrong way can have dire consequences. A case in point is what happened nine years ago at one of the major banks in South Africa when management embarked on a cost-cutting exercise with part of this drive involving staff retrenchments. The CEO of the bank sent out an email to all staff within the organisation announcing that staff retrenchments were to take place. The email seemed to appear as a bolt from the blue and there was no prior warning of what was to come. This resulted in widespread panic within the organisation and incidents of attempted suicides by certain staff members were also reported. The shock of receiving an email such as this from one’s CEO without any prior warning or counselling from one’s line manager destroyed any trust that employees had in the organisation and a large number of staff members who didn’t even make the retrenchment list nevertheless decided to leave the organisation.

Death by social media

Nowadays, the viral nature of what gets posted on social media can either make or break anyone’s reputation. For example, one controversial statement or video, such as what happened with the fake resurrection of Zimbabwean Brighton ‘Elliot’ Moyo, that took place at Alleluia Ministries International, Johannesburg in February 2019, went viral on social media before it made the news. Fraught with all kinds of fraudulent activities, the incident nevertheless was couched in such a way that the church vehemently denied having any prior knowledge of the ‘fake miracle’. What literally began as ‘death by social media’ will no doubt mean that going forward it will be extremely difficult for the church to try and resurrect its own good reputation.

Crisis communication

If there is a crisis within the company, PR will lead the way. Often, if the crisis is one that demands a public statement, the media will want blood and the public will want a scapegoat. Before heads start to roll, PR will take over and handle the situation in a manner that will ensure that the company maintains its reputation, customers are satisfied and the issue can be quelled before the camera lens zooms in.

PR will inform the public based on what they understand in terms of:
• What happened
• When it happened
• Who is liable for what happened

A prime example of a good crisis communication PR spin is what took place in Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima crisis. The Japanese Government based their approach on transparency towards the public at large and then quietly faded into the background and out of the limelight.

Helen Fenton, Senior Analyst: Business Optimization Training Institute,

Author's Bio: 

Business Optimization Training Institute (BOTI) is a Johannesburg based, Level 1 BBBEE business. As a Services and MICT SETA accredited company, we have trained thousands of individuals from over 650 companies and our extensive course offering consists of Short Courses, Soft Skills Training and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Learnership Programs. In addition, we offer bespoke training programs designed to cater to specific business needs. Our training courses are focused on knowledge and skills transfer and we pride ourselves in being able to provide training anytime, anywhere across South Africa.