What ‘PR’ is and isn’t
by Eric Whittington, 5/19/2011 4:47:12 PM | with 0 comments
Years ago, when asked what I did for a living, my pat answer was, “I do public relations work.” I got lots of crinkled noses, squinty eyes and furrowed brows in response. When I later added, “I do communications strategy work,” I think I just dug the well of confusion even deeper. Whomever I was talking to would often change the subject to the weather or simply stare into their beverage, wishing they hadn’t asked.
After a while, I finally realized two things:
1. Most folks think they know what public relations (PR) is, but in reality have no idea.
2. Examples are much better at describing PR work than fuzzy, abstract phrases like “communications strategy.”
So what is this thing called “public relations?”
Some examples (see No. 2, above):
• Messaging – Figuring out the most important ideas, concepts and words you want to convey about yourself or your organization. This is the foundation on which a PR strategy is built. It’s hard but necessary work.
• Media Outreach – Understanding what both traditional news media and newer media outlets (such as blogs) want and finding ways for them to cover your company or issue in a positive way. Also, responding to them effectively when they have questions.
• Crisis Communications – Preparing for the day you hope never comes, when you have to deal with an emergency requiring rapid, effective communications to your customers, employees, neighbors, media, shareholders or other critical audiences.
• Thought leadership – Positioning yourself as a leader in your field through appointments to important boards, public speaking on major issues in your industry, high-profile awards and recognition and other means.
• Special events – Planning and executing events that convey your most critical messages to your target audiences.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There’s much more to public relations than this but I hope this quick look makes it clear that true, strategic PR is much more than party planning or placing refreshments in your lobby. Doing it well requires experience, talent and commitment.