The Conversation Starter

Thanks to Edelman Australia for the visual.

Contributed by Jane Putnam.

It’s time to combat the common misconceptions of the field I love: public relations.

Often, too often, in fact, when people find out I work in public relations, I get this response, “So do you write press releases all day?” Thankfully (as much as I enjoy writing press releases), the answer is no . . . but then how do I explain what I do each day? I guess you could say I have a PR problem on my hands—how do I properly and accurately convey and educate others on what my job entails, and more importantly, the value of PR?

A PR practitioner is a strategic communicator (and strategic is so overused! I should hope that in business, everything we do is strategic!). PR professionals are often tasked with everything under the sun when it comes to brand management, perceptions and communications. In PR, we work with a variety of audiences (or as we in the industry call it, “publics”) to best represent and manage the relationship with an organization or company.

So, yes, I do write press releases. But I certainly don’t do it all day! I also develop messaging to support the launch of a product, respond to a crisis or even overall brand message of what a company is and does. Our PR team works with the media—and these days, it’s all kinds of media including TV, radio, online, bloggers, etc. We do research. You know those calls you get about your awareness of a product or issue and how you weigh in on it? It’s a pretty safe bet that a communications professional is involved and will be reviewing the research findings to strengthen or develop communication efforts. We manage internal communications, too. The external audiences are very important, of course, but you also need to have strong relationships internally.

The value of PR can’t always be equated to an X percent increase in sales, or X dollars in ad equivalency. As we tell our clients, it’s often the intrinsic value. How do you put a dollar amount on a good reputation, or the quick resolution of a would-be crisis? Sometimes you can’t, but any PR professional worth his or her job will be able to show you, through their work and results, the value of PR.

The Public Relations Society of America is actually in the process of redefining public relations. Sure, PR has been around for more than a century now, but things, as we all know, keep changing. To keep up with these changing trends and services and value PR provides, a new definition is in the works, with industry professionals worldwide weighing in.

So, next time I see you, feel free to ask what I do all day. I promise I’ll have a good answer and it will be educational!

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