Building Relationships: The Foundation for Good PR

For the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been home to a dynamic conversation about the necessity of public relations. I know this happens every now and then: someone says that hiring a PR shop is useless, and we in the profession come together to defend our honor. While I don’t appreciate the bashing, it does allow me to step back and evaluate my role as a public relations practitioner.

I can tell you one thing: I didn’t decide to pursue a career in public relations so that I could send out spam-like e-mails to bloggers and spend hours hounding reporters about my clients. Media relations is not what drew me into PR, and even though it’s valuable, it is not why I will stay in this field, either.

I chose PR for a number of reasons. I loved the idea that I could facilitate relationships between an organization and its consumers. Me? I like people. I like helping people. I like talking and engaging in informative conversations. I love writing and thinking strategically. All of these interests translated well into a career in PR, where these interests could become a valuable skill set.

Last night put a lot of things into perspective for me. I had a great time hanging out with Paull Young, Converseon employee and fellow PR blogger. Paull introduced me to some incredibly smart, hilarious people who all happen to have blogs. As we sat there talking and eating fried pickles (yeah, I know… but they’re actually good!), I realized why I love what I do.

The most rewarding part of my job is not landing a placement in the Wall Street Journal or on a top-tier blog. For me, the gold medal comes from meeting someone and trying to figure out how I can build a mutually beneficial relationship between that person and myself, and maybe down the road, between that person and my client.

And you know what? That’s what the people we’re trying to reach want, too. You know – the important people, the consumers. They want to interact with companies and organizations that seem personal, that at least try to understand the people using their products or services. The same goes with the media: if they know and trust you, they are going to be more inclined to work with you. This is simple Communications 101, yet it seems to get lost as we struggle to get large impressions numbers and prove our contributions to the bottom line.

When you really listen to others, you start to gauge their interests and passions – with this, you can gain their trust. Trust is the building block to relationships, and relationships should be the foundation of good PR.

If you are the CEO of a major company or the president of a new start-up, you might not have the time or resources to find the right people to build quality relationships with. That’s where we PR folk should come in handy – it’s what we do, or at least what we should do. As communicators, we have an onslaught of tools and tactics that can help create worthwhile relationships, whether it’s with consumers, journalists, bloggers, analysts, employees.

Even though measurement and proving our contributions is fundamental to the success of our profession, it will be easier to do so if we start acting a little more human and a little less like impressions fiends. Don’t get me wrong – I know the value of measurement! I’m simply agreeing with others in the field who are saying that the key to these numbers depends on strong relationships and excellent communications skills. It takes time, but so does the creation of any good foundation.


13 thoughts on “Building Relationships: The Foundation for Good PR

  1. *Applause*

    Reading posts like this remind me why I blog, why I try to educate my peers and why I love what I do.

    Spot on Meg, spot on – those who discount PR and bash what we do have no idea that there’s all sorts of smart, thoughtful and ethical PR pros around like yourself.

    GREAT stuff 🙂

  2. Meg: You don’t know me, but you took a class from my husband, Dr. Randy Miller, at USF. I’m a public relations professor at Georgia College, and my students are blogging for the first time in my PR Admin class. I actually know all the PR faculty at USF very well.

    I’m going to blog about your post above to my students. You have an important message to share.

  3. Meghan, reading posts like yours above inspire me and kind of re-energize me. “To facilitate relationships” was also the reason why I got into PR in the first place. Knowing yourself and fighting for what you believe is the only way you will stand out in the crowd. And that’s what you are doing here.

    I had the pleasure to meet Paul a few months ago and agree with you. He is really good at helping put things into perspective. He truly believes on what he does, and does it with passion.

    I hope we get the chance to meet and continue this conversation sometime in the near future. I wish you much success in your career.

  4. Long time no blog, Meg, and it’s good to hear from you.

    As always, you’re blowing them all away with your astounding intelligence, wit, and good will.

    I’m looking forward to a blog about that certain exciting new event in your life… Congrats, hun, I’m so proud of you!

  5. @Paull Thank you! You were a great inspiration to me when i was student, and now I’m happy to call you a friend.

    @Ginger I hope your students (and all PR students reading this) know they can reach out to me any time to chat about PR, life after college, anything. The conversations I had my senior year with recent grads were very helpful, so I can only hope to help others, too.

    @Marifer Thanks for stopping by – I think the facilitator role is why a lot of us go into PR, but sometimes that gets lost. I love meeting other people who haven’t lost sight of that so that I can get re-energized, too!

    @Tory Oh, don’t you worry about that. 😉

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  7. Meg – Great post. PR gets a bad rap like SEO gets a bad rap. Certain people always ruin the party for the people having a good time. Everyone likes a quick fix, and blog mentions and link bait and great ways to get attention. The relationships, though, is what gets the best to the top and everyone else in a here today, gone tomorrow environment. I’m glad you get it and feel free to send me anything that might make sense for people that read my sites!

  8. Meg,

    I share the same beliefs as you when it comes to PR. Media relations has its place in our field, but the true value of PR comes in the relationships we develop and maintain. The comment you left me a while back brought this my attention and totally changed my view of our profession. Great post and thanks for the insight!

  9. This is a great blog. As an introdunction PR student at Clemson University, these are the things I love to read. Any textbook can try to define PR and what it entails, how it is different from marketing, and multiple theories but this is the literature I was really looking for. The words “people person”, “relationships”, and of course “mutually beneficial” really jumped out at me. What is described in this blog is what I am looking for in a career and I am so glad I happened across this as encouragement, thanks!

  10. @esande The fact that those words jumped out at you is very promising. I hope you’ll continue to find more blogs like mine to encourage you as you start learning more about PR. Best of luck!

  11. It’s so refreshing to read a blog like this. I am currently a PR student, still undecided about the sector I’m interested in; however, it helps to know there’s practioners eager to help out students. Your blog made me less stressed and more excited about finishing school in the spring, while emphasizing just how important networking and building relationships in the industry really is. So, thanks Meg.

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