Last week two major outlets, The New York Times and TechCrunch, both posted rants about bad experiences the authors had with PR professionals. Each tirade exposed the PR pro and their strong distaste for the industry. Regardless of who was in the right in these articles, it is not the “bad experience” that comes shining through; it is the comments about the story that are the true winner.
I printed off a copy of each story to really comb through it and see what the message was regarding PR. I was prepared for the worst until I started reading through the 10+ pages of comments on each story. It was a sigh of relief; people were communicating and creating a better understanding of the industry. It was an excellent teaching opportunity for PR 101: The Do’s and Don’ts of Public Relations.
In the spectrum of professions, public relations is a relatively new field and not understood in cut-and-dry terms for many people outside the industry. I found one quote particularly brutal, but it was a perfect example of how the profession is misunderstood:
“P.R. people are paid to twist reality into pretzels and convince you that they are fine croissants.”
Public relations is not a pretzel-into-croissant industry, but it is important to recognize the perceptions of the profession to clarify what our valuable role in the marketplace is. The best comment on the article came from Rosanna Fiske, APR, Chair and CEO of PRSA. Fiske does an excellent job of rebutting the author but including the PRSA Code of Ethics and clarifying between public relations and publicity.
After reading through the articles and comments I found three points that outline successful communication and PR 101:
1. Chemistry and responsibility are needed by all participants. It is important that the client and the agency have chemistry to build a strong relationship with open communication. It is the responsibility of both the client and the PR professional to outline goals and create a shared understanding of what they are and how they will achieve them with a detailed action plan.
2. Feedback plays an important role. The best way to give feedback is to be open to also receiving feedback; it’s a reciprocal process. It is about tone and tact, which was absent in the TechCrunch article.
3. When pursuing a public relations firm, know what you want. As Fiske’s comment pointed out, PR is not publicity or acting as a publicist, it’s about being a communicator. PR professionals engage in dialogue that helps to create strategies, content, and most importantly, create valuable relationships. While reading an article for class last week I came across a definition of PR that stuck with me: “Public Relations sets the best strategic environment for marketing to thrive.” What do you think?
Whether you’re just starting out in the industry or a seasoned PR veteran, it never hurts to get back to the basics or reread the PRSA Code of Ethics. When the industry gets called out twice in one week, it never hurts to take the opportunity to educate emerging professionals in the field the ethical considerations and true responsibilities of PR professionals. Lead with example. Do you have a PR 101 tip or teaching point? Share it here.