Public relations as aikido

In martial arts, aikido stands out for its emphasis on leveraging opposing forces, not just for defense but also to protect the attacker from harm. Its practice demands flexibility, a calm mind, endurance and compassion. It is the opposite of a stand your ground and shoot someone mentality – it is a defense that allows both parties to walk away unharmed and fight (hopefully non-violently) another day.

On any given day, businesses and organizations can find themselves under fire for poor customer service, production mistakes or a thousand other errors. Public relations is not about covering these mistakes up or running from them – it is about responding to them and building off of them. Like in aikido, you must be calm as you summon the strength to deflect the attack.

Remember that old maxim any PR is good PR? You can make it true. Having people talk about your brand or your organization, even negatively, is at least an invitation to a discussion. You can take that energy and respond to it positively, by listening to the concerns and, even if it is a rant, finding the kernel of truth that can help you improve your communications or your business. That last part is where compassion comes in — it takes compassion to really listen.

Public relations should be a dialogue, not a spin cycle where practitioners try to outwit one another with gotcha games and word play. Thinking about PR as a form of aikido means that we are doing our jobs by staying in the moment, by really listening and understanding all sides of the debate, and building long-lasting relationships.

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