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January 1, 2008
Both Sides Matter In PR

It's just a brief, but troubling, news release in The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Gordon Hickey, a former Times-Dispatch reporter, says that, while reporters have to be balanced, "I didn't have to worry about the other side of the story" as press secretary to former Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

Hickey will be on a panel of journalists-turned-PR pros this week at PRSA Richmond's luncheon networking event. Somebody should ask him if he really means a PR officer doesn't have to be concerned about the nature of conflicting views and what might be giving rise to them. If so, he's mistaken.

Again, empathy, walking in someone else's shows, is a basic principle in PR and, we always thought, in politics as well. You can't be fair, and possibly even effective, in gaining support for a given position or cause if you don't recognize and make allowances for opposing viewpoints. 

Impressions or perceptions that others may have are key to whether you're being fair, understood and well-received.

The idea that a PR person only has "to worry about one side of the story," as the Times-Dispatch lead puts it, is a perverse notion for public relations as a communication profession. Virginia governors can serve only one term, so it was possible to conclude how Gordon Hickey's one-sided approach might have served Tim Kaine in a reelection bid in 2008. But he's now chairman of the Democratic National Committee and we'd suspect he's pretty sensitive to "the other side of the story" in that post. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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