The story is often used to preach the perils of procrastination and failure to plan. We apply it to everything from weddings to retirement.
Recently, a client has applied this moral to public relations.
The client has wrestled with an unexpected issue requiring some focused communication. Over coffee one day, the client told me that the experience has been a revelation. Businesses tend to treat public relations like the cover on a fire alarm—“In case of emergency, break glass.” It serves in an as-needed capacity, a tool to be wielded only when complaints appear on Facebook or a politician takes legislative aim.
That’s a practice that needs to change, the client said. It should be an everyday part of the business.
In one respect, PR is an as-needed function; it happens to be needed all the time. Public relations is about building relationships and ensuring ongoing interaction. It’s about engaging stakeholders, sharing information, listening and re-evaluating. Relationships and credibility are created over time, not at the drop of a media statement.
At a board meeting I attended, a person kept talking about the need to “PR” this or that need. I was chagrined, but I held my tongue out of respect; I plan to educate that person in a private moment.
His comment underscores the widespread misinterpretation of public relations. It's an example of grasshopper thinking.
We need to think and act more like the ant.