Three of public relations’ best practice pillars are either commonly not applied to their potential or, worse, not applied at all. These pillars, the Holy Trinity of public relations – thought leadership, 3rd party credibility and strategic alliances – should be default characteristics of any public relations strategy. This lack of application, and the minimal amount of discussion on them, prompted me to produce a free white paper on the topics (available once email subscribing to this blog).
This white paper provides an overview of the strategic dimensions of the Holy Trinity and some practical manifestations of how they can be applied in a business environment.
Throughout the paper, the complementary dimensions of the Trinity pillars are illustrated. Supporting this, tactical, practical advice on how they can be applied collectively, rather than as standalone methodologies, is provided.
Individually, the three pillars of the Trinity are a robust means of delivering tangible business outcomes, yet applying them in an integrated manner provides economy of scale. More importantly, however, when connected each pillar will then generate a greater momentum to deliver a collectively-driven result that exceeds the sum of its individual parts being applied separately.
Triple-treat challenges in applying the Trinity, then, and well worth getting right, are ensuring that:
- individually, suitable constituents of the pillars are put in place
- collectively, if applying an integrated Trinity approach, the different elements work well together and are likely to optimise investment
- an approach, or strategy if you like, that ensures the varying characteristics of any single or collective Trinity elements are harnessed and directed to optimise investment.
Holy Trinity PR pillars explained
Thought leadership – the provision of content that is original, thought provoking but, above all in the context of business results, useful for organisational target audiences and, ideally, prompts them to tell others about the value that it has provided them. Ideally, these ‘others’ will either be more target audiences or influencers on target audiences.
3rd party credibility – provided by non-organisational employees that have credibility and/or influence on organisational target audiences, with their views on issues relevant to the organisation (but not necessarily about the organisation) being made apparent through communication mediums such as the media, social media or events.
Strategic alliances – forming business relationships between organisations to help them achieve their objectives, with primary rationales for the alliances being:
- They expand the reach of communication (i.e. information about each alliance partner can be included in each other’s communication vehicles)
- The credibility of each partner can be enhanced due to its involvement with the other credible partner
- ‘Riding on the coattails’ of the alliance partner’s communication vehicles normally costs either nothing or very little, thus making it comparatively easy to generate excellent ROI on the alliance ‘investment’.
Why the Holy Trinity is good PR = good business
Each of the Trinity pillars facilitate credibility to the organisation being delivered. Sometimes through non-organisational stakeholders (e.g. individuals, companies, non-government organisations such as think tanks) endorsing the organisation, either directly or by insinuation, and sometimes by providing value of substance to organisational target audiences.
The extensively interconnected nature of the Trinity is founded on relationships. None of the three pillars exists without taking into account and dealing with the relationship dimension:
- Thought leadership – to provide content of value, the needs of target audiences must be understood, which is almost impossible without a relationship existing or for there to be a genuine desire for a mutually beneficial relationship to be constituted
- 3rd party credibility – necessitates a non-organisational stakeholder endorsing the organisation (either explicitly or implicitly), which will not occur without a mutually beneficial relationship existing
- Strategic alliance – one of its characteristics is mutually beneficial outcomes or ROI.
As noted, mutually beneficial outcomes are a consistent necessity and outcome of the Holy Trinity being applied. This is an extension, and application, of two-way symmetrical communication.
Evolving, learning: PR leads to better organisations
A qualitative manner in which the Holy Trinity, and hence PR itself, helps deliver ROI is through the learning and insights gained from actually applying the Trinity. As such, this is a continual improvement process that benefits an organisation’s entire business operations.
- necessitate working with non-organisational stakeholders
- frequently require challenging organisational orthodoxies
- compel an organisation to adapt to the needs, methods and thinking of non-organisational stakeholders
- will see organisational approaches and content examined and tested; in essence providing a form of focus group or qualitative testing before ‘going to market’.
In each of these instances, the organisation can evolve and improve the way it operates.
Thought leadership for content strategy
Because so much communication, relationship building and reputation enhancement is based on content that is used in social and other digital media formats, the Holy Trinity pillars are a natural means of helping facilitate the development of this content. Of course, they should be integrated into any approach that delivers content to the organisation.
And if the goals of creating content are educating, informing, entertaining and inspiring, then this isn’t so far from what thought leadership entails. Certainly, all four of these characteristics need to be considered as part of an organisation’s content strategy, in itself a 101 pillar of any best practice public relations and/or marketing strategy.
The Holy Trinity of public relations white paper is available as a free download from this blog once you email subscribe to it. Once you check it out, if all good, please share news of its existence through your social media networks! Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn buttons are on this web page to make it easy for you to do this.