Five Truths and a Cry

Pramana turns 5.

Pramana Collective started five years ago with some simple premises: truth matters; truth is hard to see; we find truth together; trust is built on trust; and everything Pramana does ties directly to operational and financial goals. Oh, and we don’t work with assholes.

Roughly 100 client projects and just as many pronunciations of Pramana later, we stand by our reasons for being. Digging deeper, here are five perspectives that keep us going:

1. Think external, but act internal first.

If your message isn’t resonating in the world, ask yourself if your message is landing with your employees — it’s probably not. We’ve encountered numerous situations where a company’s employees either don’t believe the external narrative or don’t understand it. If it doesn’t work inside the building, it’s not going to work outside. Your employees should and must remain your primary audience.

2. Truth has never been more important.

Today, companies are a mirror — not a movie — and the ones who reflect reality instead of presenting fiction will always be better off in the long run. It may seem counterintuitive in an era where fake news can reach farther, faster than the truth, but a strong business is built upon surfacing an organization’s truths — even if they’re initially hidden and obscured.

Don’t spend time portraying a fictional characterization of who you are. It will be a fleeting endeavor at best. The companies who try to deflect and spin their way out of every negative situation are the companies that will have a new “PR problem” week after week.

Likewise, great branding is great, and for a short time it can do wonders. But too many companies see a mediocre return on their branding because their positioning and story are based on a filtered, rosy version of who they are and what they want to be. The resulting sparkle might temporarily look good, but the veneer won’t last. Your brand and the story it tells must be grounded in truth.

3. Comms can’t be an afterthought.

While many organizations come to us when they’re approaching an inflection point, many also come to us when they’ve hit a wall. We’re able to provide a third-party perspective and share a solution. However, had the comms lead had a seat at the adult table to begin with, they could have helped the executive team steer around the wall or avoid it altogether. To be successful, your comms lead must be able to share his or her opinion before decisions are made, rather than being tacked on when you want to ship something or have a problem. Leverage your comms lead to act as the glue between product, sales, engineering, partnerships, support, and so on. By the nature of the role, they already have a finger on both the internal and external pulse; they know what’s screwed up and what’s humming. They can be the devil’s advocate or fresh perspective in a room that’s passionate but running in circles. Use that to your advantage.

4. Good comms can be the silence between the notes.

Ever wonder why a company comes out with a news-free or misguided announcement? Chances are a founder or an executive sees press as a means to an end and not as a chance to reflect what is true about an organization. While your comms person or an agency can always find ways to get you coverage, when it’s not rooted in substance the story will come and go without making an impact. Use other means to communicate, or don’t say anything while you focus on creating positioning and a proactive strategy connected to business and product realities — and to what you stand for as an organization…

5. …Stand for something, together.

Be bold. Be brave. Be honest. Decide what you believe in as a company and let that belief be your platform. Use it as a strong filter for what you will and will not do — throughout your organization. Show your audiences that you mean what you say. Hold yourself accountable, and allow others externally to do the same.

Use that platform as a filter to test each decision you and your teams make — whether it be a business, product, or marketing decision. Over and over we see in companies, when asked why they’re doing what they’re doing, they either don’t have a clear answer, or everyone has a different answer.

A strong, singular platform, supported across teams and departments, allows you to focus, drive the public conversation, avoid the kind of bad decisions which result in PR crises, and earn the trust and loyalty of your audiences.

And, while many of the issues facing clients today are the same as when we started, Pramana itself has evolved. The company is no longer that veritable speakeasy down an alley without a sign over the door. We recently put up this website to help people who operate outside of our network understand who we are and what the company does.

The company has evolved from being comprised of a small confederation of smart individuals to a true collective: a diverse group in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York that operates very much like a cross-functional team.

Thank you to Brandee Barker, a co-founder and advisor: Pramana would not be here without you. Thank you to the all-star crew of folks who worked at the company before us. And thank you to all our clients who partnered with Pramana to uncover their truths. Onward.

– Kamyl Bazbaz, Courtney Bergman, Ana Braskamp, Paul Cafiero, Caroline Caswell, Sean Garrett, Erika Gudmundson, Abdullah Hasan, Anna Ondaatje, and Brian O’Shaughnessy