MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU
The only aim of public relations is to make people think and act the way we want.
Everyone knows that achieving this aim is tremendously difficult. You can get down on your knees that even an older child could wash at least his plate, but he won’t do it. As leaders, we can apply harsh sanctions that the employees would appear to work on time, but they will still be late. We constantly fail in conveying our messages; we do not achieve our aim. The government is no exception here.
Influencing people, directing their behaviour, actions and thinking is simple and impossible at the same time. It is simple when you want to make a person or even a nation to do the things they like. Come to a song festival! 100 000 people are right there, even if they have to pay for a ticket. But: let’s receive couple of hundreds of refugees?! People start crying at the top of their voices, explain as much you want.
People think and do only the things they like or find beneficial. Convincing them over demands argumentation with empathy, that would change their understandings about pleasantness and benefits. This is possible – otherwise nobody would advertise. We fiercely love advertising, although we argue contrariwise. Shopping rally is our favourite rally.
The problem is not about communication, but the message
The most impossible communication task is the one where a person, political party or company wants to change the opinion of the whole society or one specific social group completely into the uniform one: I want that everybody would love me! For example, all 101 parliament members find that they very much like that Taavi Rõivas loves to be a prime minister. Unfortunately, many members of coalition parties do not like this. Or another example is that all Estonians would like to legitimise a same-sex marriage. To bring out some of the deeply controversial subjects where convincing can (sometimes also substantially) alleviate controversies, but never completely make them disappear.
In October 2009, when we prepared together with Jüri Käo the communication of Selver to be leaving Latvia, Jüri said out loud a golden thought that still accompanies me: ”Janek, business decisions first and then we think about how to inform about them. “Leaving was painful, but indispensable. Nobody got angry, everybody understood. If a publicly traded company fails to take any decisions in order to avoid indignation, the company will go bankrupt. This could also happen to a state, as we can see from the example of Greece.
The Estonian Government has not ever had any communication problems. A high-salary communication army works for the government and the small private sector companies next to the army seem like tiny security companies with limited rights and possibilities. The problem for the Estonian government is the content and attitude towards the nation (to be read: the owners of the Republic of Estonia). There is no need to “PR” good decisions, these decisions “PR” by themselves.
The public is always right
The government of today received a label of incompetent and silly people in public space because there was not anything good to inform about. If you say before a wedding (to be read: elections) to a woman that I will buy you a house if you marry me, and after the wedding you announce that the woman should take a bank loan at the expense of her separate assets, then she might feel herself as being cheated. It is not possible to make the deception invisible with any public relation method.
Good public relation that includes convincing, reliable and honest arguments enables to magnify positive things and alleviate the negative ones. It is not possible to hype non-existent things.
Top stock brokers say that the market is always right. Exactly the same, the public is always right. If the government’s, company’s, organisation’s or person’s work seems to be bad, then it is bad. You cannot blame a child for not washing up his/her plate. The parent who cannot convince her/his child to do that is the guilty one. The people are never guilty, it is always the government. In this regard, Jürgen Ligi is right.
Some years ago I watched a play in Tallinn City Theater where one not so well-known actor performed outstandingly and one very well-known actor did not. I felt that the less known actor should deserve more recognition.
I told about it to Anu Konze, the senior make-up artist of City Theatre, who said:” Janek, skills are not the most important to receive recognition. The most important is that people like you!”
Unfortunately, you cannot decide how likeable you are. People just like you or they don’t. You can PR as much as you want, the benefit is small. You need a pre-requisite. And in any case, the customer’s material determines the work.