Effective public relations -- whether they're sought as an add-on or sponsored internally -- start with mindset, what an organization is predisposed to being and becoming. The American Heritage Dictionary's definition of mindset is "A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations," or simply, "an inclination or habit."
Being habitually "other focused" is not something that concerns a lot of organizations. Many may think they are, but in reality, they're not. Relational mindsets require continual cultivation. They don't just sprout in pressurized settings. They're the heart of the matter. A mindset is where you are when you unlock the office door.
On his Minding Gaps blog, communication consultant Thomas J. Lee writes about what it takes to build a "culture of engagement," to foster a relational mindset.
First, Lee advises, everyone needs to know and understand their organization's "strategic direction, customer expectations, competitive pressures, operating sensitivities, and day-to-day priorities." This presumes, of course, that given organizations have thought these factors through and are serious about them. That is, their leaders have a relational mindset.
Then, Lee continues, there needs to be "an atmosphere of critical and creative thinking about the business." A relational mindset isn't set once and for always; it keeps evolving. Don't even be thinking what you don't want to be acting.
Recognize, Lee urges, "that people find motivation both in reasons that reach their mind and emotions that touch their heart." Internal communication needs to reach for poetry, not simply an organizational manual.
And throughout, fresh thinking needs needs to be prized.
"Maintain a safe harbor for suggestions and tough questions about the business and even your own leadership," Lee counsels. "Welcome unorthodox ideas. Teach everyone how to build on someone else's kernel of creativity."
Engaging mindsets require continuing cultivation, but without one, an organization is exposing itself to dire risks. It may not understand where it's headed and why.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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