Posts Tagged 'employment in public relations'

What Makes A Good PR Person?

As we discussed in our last blog, the world is abuzz regarding the practice of public relations. Since we last posted, PRSA has established its new definition of PR, and a raucous debate on standards of practice, lobbying, etc., has sprung forth in the UK– which could have implications industry wide.  Consequently PRSA officials felt the need to weigh in on the UK debate.  All of this self-examination, redefinition, and realignment of standards and practices, caused us to ponder the question: what makes a good PR person? You would probably get a different answer from every person to whom this question is posed, but for us, a few   common characteristics stand out. Here’s our take on what are the compelling characteristics of a good PR person:

  • Inquisitive, thinks expansively. Has a global and universal view of the world at the same time. Practically speaking, this means you’re a person open to ideas—whether ancient or new, within your realm of experience or beyond, and across  the usual boundaries of age, race, culture, geography or language. We like to say about PR practice:  You never know where your next good idea will come from. True enough, we are surprised each day about how much of our past experience—the things we’ve done, read, seen or been involved with, are somehow surprisingly relevant to the projects we’re working on now. It’s absolutely uncanny, and the good PR person never underestimates the value of his or her accumulated life experience to the job at hand.
  • A good writer. We think a good PR person is, by definition, a good writer; someone who writes well and is on their way to becoming an excellent writer. By this, we don’t simply mean grammar and execution: what we mean most profoundly is that they understand “the voice” of the subject they’re writing about. They understand perceptions, feelings, and nuances related to the subject in a way that’s otherwise hard to explain. A good PR person is a good writer, on the lifelong journey of becoming an ever better writer.
  • Honors the profession. A good PR person is self-regulating: He or she accepts that the profession, similar to journalism, is built around a bond of openness, mutuality and trust with the audience(s). They refuse to corrupt the process of communication. They accept the inherent responsibility of speaking truth to power, and vice versa.

A fundamental principle of practice at our firm is that [responsible] “PR does not seek negative outcomes.” We’re not about trying to tear something down; we’re about raising something up—creating room for an alternative voice.

So, these are some of our thoughts on what makes a good PR person (not exhaustive). We’d like to hear yours …Chime in.

By the way, as we tweeted about earlier, here’s the latest ad from Google (the coffee stains are ours!), presumably to offset concerns about privacy of information. Clever, but are they “winning”? You tell us.

The Definition of Public Relations, Google on Privacy and Other Issues

There’s been a lot of buzz of late around the public relations profession. The national Public Relations Society of America is currently undertaking a 21st Century definition of PR, which they’ll likely unveil in the next weeks. They solicited input far and wide to try to come up with some encompassing definition for the widely diverse practice of public relations. (View the current definition of PR here)

But this is only one aspect in which public relations is generating news: Many people are excited about the rosy labor forecasts projected for the profession during the next few years. The US Labor Department expects “employment of public relations specialists to grow 24 percent from 2008 to 2018–much faster than the average for all occupations.”  That is, presumably, good news indeed.

So why is all this buzz important? Well, one consequence, for certain, is that more people are caring about the practice of public relations. And how does this help clarify what’s good PR practice, and what’s not?

While we would certainly be hesitant to pre-empt PRSA’s studied process for redefining the profession, a look at recent headlines regarding some companies and their public relations crystallized a few thoughts about what PR is, about what works, and what doesn’t.

For example, within the past few weeks, two iconic brands—Google and Apple—have been uncharacteristically broadsided by bad PR:  Google, on privacy issues for its data-gathering processes on Safari browsers and Apple for the working conditions at some of its overseas manufacturers and suppliers. While neither company can be happy about such publicity, it’s worth noting that for each company, thus far, the fallout has been minimal. (See final note below) Which got us to thinking—why are some companies brought to their knees over news that’s a lot less damaging than these two companies faced, while other companies are able to withstand major hits and continue virtually unscathed?

Public perception of the companies beforehand accounts for a lot; and what plays a major role in shaping those perceptions—good public relations. Another way that we view good public relations is “stockpiling goodwill.” Companies do this everyday by paying attention to the details of business operations and marketing; correcting errors—proactively, as often as possible; and adopting a consumer-sensitive, if not consumer-friendly outlook. In short, they do the right thing most of the time, they do it willingly, and they’re good a creating feedback mechanisms to understand what their publics want, or at least what they’ll tolerate. (Panera offers the most recent example of this kind of corporate citizenship). So when issues flare up, their credibility helps buffer them from a major public debacle.

So that’s our working definition of public relations: conducting business everyday so that you stockpile goodwill. In the meantime, we’ll continue reading the headlines and looking forward to the PRSA’s consensus definition of the public relations profession.

By the way, it’s worth noting that Google has lobbed an impressive pre-emptive strike to try to contain the damage from its recent bad press. Check out the photo below …

Google's print ad campaign to offset negative publicity regarding the privacy of its searches.

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