What Can Trains, Toilets and the French Teach Us About Public Relations?

train-station-300x215I was on vacation with my family, and we stayed in a hotel that got their measurements wrong. The bathroom door in our room couldn’t close because it was not able to clear the toilet, so the hotel had to cut part of the door off to make it work.
Who would’ve thought France would make the same kind of mistake, but much worse? Jolie Lee in USA Today shared a story about how France had to spend almost 70 million dollars to fix over 1,000 train stations because the trains they ordered were too wide for the platforms. I remember when I took woodworking class in school, they told us to measure twice, and cut once. It’s a simple concept that’s been around for years, but France’s national railway system obviously didn’t check everything out before deciding to use the new trains.

You also have to measure your publicity campaign to make it fit, but in that case, it has to fit various audiences. What might work for the mainstream media might not work for your employees because public relations is about internal and external communication. For instance, if you work for a publicly traded company, the press releases should have formal language and be written in such a way as to not violate any regulations when you announce earnings or corporate mergers. Even press releases that cover new products are usually written in a stiffer style. However, if you use that same kind of language in internal communications for employees, they might think you’re being too stiff, out of touch, or unapproachable, and their livelihoods could be affected. On the other hand, if you decide to communicate with your employees with a more casual style, it could end up reflecting badly on you when you use that same style with the media. Basically, you can create the same message for the media and employees,but the way it’s delivered should be customized. 

So before you launch your communications plan, make sure it fits, and be consistent with the audience you’re talking to. You don’t want your message to “pull into the wrong station” with employees, management, or federal regulators. Simple phrases could do a lot of damage and even affect morale.