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.