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The culture of public relations is not only based on a gratifying and inspirational aesthetic but it also, and get this, contributes in a positive way to society and provides a working milieu that is inspiring to be part of.
There are a wide range of reasons for this, but I’ll pick out five of the best in this post and five in a following discussion. Hopefully, you’ll think my passion for the professional discipline of public relations is justified after you read this. You might even get the urge to add your own reasons for being a fan of the profession.
One of the most important strategic elements of public relations is identifying organisational stakeholder needs and wants. The PR pro then informs the organisation of stakeholder positions and helps the organisation evolve the way it operates so it is more closely aligned with stakeholders.
Of course, it works the other way around, too. But we all know that. What isn’t so widely discussed through public relations forums is the influence that public relations can have on an organisation.
When this paradigm is applied, it means that organisations become more embedded into society in a socialised sense, making people, in theory, more satisfied and happy.
In essence, the public relations professional is the conscience of an organisation, a stance underpinned of course by the profession’s high ethical standards.
Creativity = fun
If you want to be churlish you could accuse me of rolling two characteristics into one here. So sue me!
For me, being creative is huge amounts of fun. There are many examples of how PR is a discipline which both survives on, and is driven by, creativity:
- Insane stunts like hundreds of people doing yoga on a beach or stripping off their jeans when identified as a ‘stooge’ in the streets and handing said jeans over
- Creating strategic alliances with other organisations to help increase organisational/product/service awareness
- Generating innovative topics for use in media, speaking and social media ‘outreach’ programs by organisations and/or clients. Some excellent examples from my old crew at Howorth include the Telstra Productivity Indicatorand Citrix Online’s Shrinking Holiday Syndrome.
It is necessary for this creativity to be business-relevant, which adds to the challenge of getting it right and relevant. Interestingly, the rigour that comes with this business-relevance actually help define and ‘fertilise’ the zone in which creativity needs to take place.
Innovation and education
I touched on this in the previous point, but public relations, just like business and society which it serves, is changing all the time.
From a tactical discipline perspective, social media is the latest weapon residing in the PR pro’s arsenal.
More importantly than that, however, is that new ideas are needed to help create POD and thought leadership for organisations. Additionally, society and business is not getting any simpler, so the intellect of public relations as a putative whole needs to continually keep one step ahead to deliver results.
Inherent within this is the need to continually learn and improve. Education is at the heart of this. Without it, you may not be dead in the water from a career perspective but, believe me, you ain’t going anywhere fast.
Playing in the sandbox
There are a plethora of tactics in the PR sandbox (sorry, I meant toolbox) you can play with:
- Social media/online
- Market research
- Speaking program
- Issues and crisis management
- Government relations/lobbying.
The list goes on. What this means is that as you gain experience and seniority you have the opportunity to pit your wits against the challenges of these discrete disciplines and learn their intricacies. And even if you primarily utilise only one or two of these disciplines at a time, there will always be a new context in which to operate that will make each tactical adventure a fresh one.
Having said that, there may well come a time when you want to change your tactical focus. That’s natural. And prudent, too, from a career development perspective. You should be hungering for new experiences.
It seems to me that public relations is one of the better earners in western society. This isn’t the actual ‘bottom line’ from my perspective. The bottom line is a complex, multi-layered thing. But, hey, it doesn’t hurt!
Obviously, money talks. Just as importantly, to get this money we don’t have to:
- work and live four weeks at a stretch on an oil rig isolated at sea
- repeat the same precise process again and again
- bite our tongue every time we hear an assertion or direction we don’t agree with. PR people are sought after for our opinion. If you work in PR and your opinion is not valued, look for a new job. Your employer doesn’t deserve you.
PR upside conclusion
These points are based, obviously I guess, on a few factors:
- my 15 odd years of experience in the field
- what I learnt from undertaking a Masters in Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney, doing courses with Australian PR legends like David Potts and ongoing education through reading publications like the Journal of Public Relations Researchand PR and marketing blogs (see my blogroll for reference)
- Working with, and learning from, an array of pretty impressive public relations professionals, including those that are and were supposedly my ‘juniors’ (and in a social media-dominated world, the mindset of ‘you can’t learn anything from those with less experience than you’ is more flawed and counter-productive than ever).
So these are five of my top ten reasons for being an acolyte of public relations. Tell me yours. Or argue with me. Am I dreaming here? Anything I can learn I am grateful for.