Public Relations firms do not write stories for reporters; they do not put up adverts or come up with catchy phrases to market a product. Their work is to promote a company’s image.
The Public Relations Society of America defines the management of public relations as:
- “Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
- Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
- Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
- Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.”
Not everyone has a proper clue as to what PR professionals do. PR is all about communication. This is communication that represents and manages the relationship the company has with the public.
A PR practitioner is a strategic communicator (and strategic is so overused! I should hope that in business, everything we do is strategic!). PR professionals are often tasked with everything under the sun when it comes to brand management, perceptions and communications. In PR, we work with a variety of audiences (or as we in the industry call it, “publics”) to best represent and manage the relationship with an organization or company.
So, yes, I do write press releases. But I certainly don’t do it all day! I also develop messaging to support the launch of a product, respond to a crisis or even overall brand message of what a company is and does. Our PR team works with the media—and these days, it’s all kinds of media including TV, radio, online, bloggers, etc. We do research. You know those calls you get about your awareness of a product or issue and how you weigh in on it? It’s a pretty safe bet that a communications professional is involved and will be reviewing the research findings to strengthen or develop communication efforts. We manage internal communications, too. The external audiences are very important, of course, but you also need to have strong relationships internally.
There are certain characteristics that stand out as a mark of success in a PR professional. They are supposed to be curious to know what is happening out there. Their ears are on the ground. They also learn the new trends so that they can adjust accordingly.
An insatiable curiosity
When a company takes on a PR agency, there is usually a specific brief based on a set of targets and objectives. What is rarely in the brief is the sort of ‘eyes and ears’ service that the best PR firms provide. At Cullen Communications we call it ‘PR Plus’, a process by which we are constantly thinking about our clients, scanning the market for news and developments of interest, alert to any opportunity that we can turn into a PR win. This requires the sort of curiosity that brought about the demise of the proverbial cat: have you got the eyes and ears for PR?
An appetite for learning
There once was a time when press releases were cranked out on typewriters, then photocopied and posted – posted! – to news departments. PR has changed a bit since those days, and the industry continues to change at an incredible rate. Today’s PR professional must be willing to absorb all kinds of new information and skills in order to succeed in the evolving media landscape.