FiremanA lot of people have the misconception that a public relations firm simply deals with the media while churning out press releases. While this may have been closer to the truth in the past, the digital age has greatly transformed the opportunities available to gain exposure for clients. Great PR firms have capitalized on these opportunities to further increase exposure for their client’s products, services and brands.

A public relations firm of today will not only help its clients generate exposure through traditional media, but also ensure that the client creates a digital personality for the company itself and key executives. This digital presence is built through strategic content, social media, crisis control and consulting. In addition, the PR agency will pay attention to what’s being said about a company and its products, and assist in developing strategies that will either reinforce positive buzz, or address negative responses by the public.

Many auto dealerships see the necessity in these actions and some have hired multiple companies to handle them, from outsourced social media services to content writers and reputation management companies. Vendors to these dealerships, however, have been slow to adopt many of these services. Some businesses try to take these challenging tasks on themselves – and some succeed. Sometimes, however, it’s more effective for a company that doesn’t specialize in any of these areas to focus on what they’re good at and let another company help them. Just like the old saying goes “A lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client,” it’s difficult to stay objective and avoid selling in content and responses. Whether you’re the owner of a company, its president or an employee, just as in a dealership or any business, emotions can get involved which prevent effective interactions with either the media or public.

Another challenge a business faces by outsourcing tasks to multiple companies is that there typically isn’t a coordinated strategy. Many automotive vendors have been consolidating services in an effort to provide a single solution to their customers. This offers the dealership the convenience of dealing with a single vendor for all of technology needs. And while there are plenty of companies that offer content writing, social media and reputation management services, few integrate these offerings with public relations activity. Many businesses simply don’t connect the dots when thinking of public relations being tied to these other services. If you think about it, however, a public relations firm knowledgeable in these activities is ideal.

When a crisis comes along via social media or on a review site, your outsourced social media and/or reputation management company may be your first line of defense. The most effective strategy would include upper management consulting with its public relations firm who can help behind the scenes by advising management on effective responses designed to mitigate damages and how best to preserve the customer relationship.

Instead of only calling the fire department when the fire gets out of control, consider having a full-time firefighter living with you. Your valuables will be much safer and the firefighter is better equipped to identify a fire. They can respond faster and have the knowledge and equipment to put the fire out faster and in a more effective manner.

Sara Callahan | Carter West Public Relations