PR Works Better When You Make It Personal

Apr 28, 2021

As many readers of the Amendola blog are probably aware, I lost my mother, who was my inspiration and guiding light, to COVID-19 the night before Thanksgiving last year. It was difficult for my family as well as me, especially because I believe it was unnecessary.

She should have been there to celebrate the holidays with us and would have been in my opinion had it not been for some missteps in her care.

As part of my process of dealing with this unexpected loss, I wrote a story about her that appeared in the Arizona Republic. If you’d like to know more about the details, along with my thoughts about what you should do to advocate for your loved ones should they be in the same unfortunate circumstances, it’s all contained in that article.

It’s what happened next, however, that I want to address today.

Shortly after that article appeared (and was re-posted on Facebook), I began to receive the most touching and beautiful comments, messages, and emails. And I’m still receiving them.

Some were from friends, of course, expressing their sympathy for my loss. Many, however, were from strangers who had gone through a similar experience and found a sense of kinship in sharing their grief as I had shared mine.

It was a stark reminder of a basic principle we, as marketing and PR professionals, should keep in mind: PR in general, and thought leadership in particular, works better when you make it personal. A topic, incidentally, I also explored in my latest Forbes Agency Council article.

The most effective thought leadership comes when the person behind it is passionate about the subject matter. Yes, you can write in a detached away about something technical, conveying information and/or data that is worth sharing. But while it informs, it usually doesn’t move people to action.

For that you need a human element. And nothing is more human than sharing something personal.

It can be a story from your childhood, your teen years, or your time as an adult. It can be about something funny that happened to you, or something sad, or something that contains a mix of emotions you can’t even sort out yourself.

Or it can be about a person who means a lot to you. Like my mom did to me.

The important thing is that it is a little glimpse behind the façade we all tend to put up in our business encounters to cover our true selves. In other words, it’s real.

Organizations often talk about creating an emotional connection to their brand during branding meetings. But then they’ll do everything they can to hide anything that seems remotely raw or real.

To me, that approach makes no sense. Sure, you don’t want to air all of the organization’s dirty laundry in your marketing and PR efforts. But what’s wrong with showing your human side?

The point is a person or a company can be open and honest about their feelings and reactions to events without falling into the rabbit hole of controversy. The key is to focus on the parts that are universal to the human experience.

We all experience joy and caring. We all experience excitement and wonderment at one time or another. We all experience grief and loss.

That doesn’t mean we experience it in the same way. But we do share those experiences to some degree.

The more willing organizations are to take a stand and tell stories about themselves, their employees, their customers, and everyone else who is connected to them, the more “real” they will become in the minds of their key audiences. And the more successful they will be in creating a brand image that is unique and memorable.

I know it’s not always easy to tell these stories. We can all feel a little exposed when we offer these types of details about ourselves.

When I wrote about my mom it was like going through it all over again.

Yet as I see the reactions continue to come in I know I made connections with people I’ve never met, and probably never will properly meet. Isn’t that what marketing and PR are really all about?

Jodi Amendola

Jodi is an accomplished leader with 25 years of experience developing, implementing and executing high-impact, integrated business-to-business public relations and marketing campaigns. Since 2004, she has served as CEO and co-founder of Amendola, where she has led campaigns for countless industry giants and start-up companies.