The problem with the reputation of public relations as a service is the perception given out by the public relations industry. Ask anyone outside the profession how they would describe public relations and almost everyone would say public relations is full of blondes drinking champagne.
Although we are in the communications game we are terrible at communicating clearly what public relations is and how public relations can add real value.
So why can’t we communicate the true value of public relations, not to mention exactly what PR is and how it adds value? One reason I suspect is because people working within PR don’t actually state clearly what the PR service is about.
This can be easily proven because a lot of people when asked what PR actually does – other than drink and spend a lot of money – would say PR is a press release service.
Unfortunately, some people actually working within the industry would also give this response.
True PR professionals and their clients would completely disagree with this, but then when I use the term ‘true PR professionals’ what I mean is the practitioner who delivers the full mix of services, including brand creation and protection, crisis avoidance and management services – in other words, delivers public relations.
During my career in public relations I have met a lot of account managers and account directors whose only imaginative PR thought is: we will send information to the press.
What about including other communication methods to deliver the message? Yes, I agree media relations is an important tool in the public relations mix and, yes supplying information to the media helps communicate positive messaging, but unless we as an industry start communicating what PR is and how it can add value then the general consensus about what PR is will remain the same.
Of course to achieve this involves everyone, from university lecturers, account managers and account directors, to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, to deliver a cohesive and focused message that the art and science of public relations is about creating clear understanding and awareness, not just a fancy name for a press release distribution service.
I understand that some may see my view as completely wrong, but every time I speak to a potential client most of them reflect negative views based on previous experiences with other agencies.
It’s only when I actually listen to their requirements, offer achievable solutions and then explain what PR is and how PR can support their business that they understand that their experience was not public relations – good PR, but bad service delivered by ineffective solutions presented by inexperienced people calling themselves practitioners.
Public relations is a fantastic and important tool within any organisation’s armoury, but until we as an industry start communicating its true value then we will continue receiving our own bad press.