From young professionals to the external world at large, the public relations profession gives a different idea to everyone.These ideas are usually misplaced; thanks to pop culture references and a prima facie knowledge of the profession. Those who are fortunate enough to come closer to the world of public relations (or become a part of it) and see the reality, may receive the real picture either as a pleasant epiphany or as a complete shock.
For the benefit of the many less informed, we’re clarifying some misconceptions that we’ve realised some people hold about public relations. You may have observed several more, and we invite you to add to this list.
This document is often seen as the one and only focus of public relations activities. And such reliance on a single document is dangerous. It doesn’t see the light of day every time. If executed incorrectly, media releases can cause more chaos than good. Neither is it an entirely sufficient public relations tool; in times of crises a media release will be the least of your public relations efforts, which go way beyond that to larger strategic interventions
The only truth is that public relations professionals take a lot of pride in being truthful consistently, which is precisely what makes the profession challenging as it is. Clear ethical boundaries are often defined by consultancies, and clientele are cognisant that real substance will matter inevitably over “spins” of it.
This is a trait that is good to have but not needed to be had by any means. It is good to be an extrovert in any domain of media services for that matter, but in reality I’ve come across several public relations professionals who are an exception to this. Also few people realise that a sizeable chunk of the work involves research and writing, and is done over phone and emails, hence the significance of this trait fades away.
In the Public relations profession, one does participate in/organise events and meets frequently, but not primarily for themselves to have a good time. These are often parts of the supports provided to clientele, making it actual work. Not only will a public relations pro expect real outcomes through these “glamorous” events, they’ll be on their toes enough to rarely enjoy any of it.
Let’s say that you can work harder than the next person, and that burnout is just a word. Let’s say that you always have your ear to the ground, and you’re wired into the latest happenings, and know how to capitalise on them. Let’s go on to say that you are a good researcher, a greater writer, and even better story teller. These are the table stakes of a public relations professional, without even approaching what it takes to be a great one.
Firstly the output depends on countless exogenous factors; primarily what’s happening in the ecosystem and the variety of ledes that editors can choose from. Then there is the fact that the impact of such outputs can happen over a long period of time. Building reputation has its own gestation period and (thankfully) it not as easy done as said.
To be fair, public relations is a small world and several public relations professionals will have strong connections across facets of media, from journalists to broadcasters to bloggers. But it is not as easily utilised as one may think. For one thing friendly as your connections maybe, they’re equally dedicated professionals not keen on doing “favours”. Secondly, in the very dynamic space of PR, its equally important to continue to establish new relationships than just nurture old ones.
My theory is that this stems from most brand and corporate communications teams working very closely during campaigns. Expectations are that public relations output will have similar impacts and measurability as advertising; so much so that focus and resources can be easily mobilised from one to another. In reality each have their own virtue. While advertising is often a monologue, PR tends to be a prolonged conversation.
One could ask any brand that has faced a public relations crises whether this is true. A stain on the brand can be impossibly difficult to remove, and can stick around forever. Negative brand identities can supersede positive ones and can become more closely associated with the brand. Also, a typical public relations crises will, regardless of how well it is managed, will tend to phase out over time rather than end abruptly. In summary, such stains are not the right price to pay for short lived spike in awareness of your brand
In a world where products and services continue to converge towards homogeneity, reputation and public presence can be the deal breaker. So it is not a counsel that only the big brands and celebrities need. In fact the start-up boom we’re witnessing is highlighting the increasingly high need for public relations , whether the client is big or small. Some in the fraternity are also trying to build a model wherein bootstrapped start-ups can avail professional public relations services in an economic way.
School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe) — India’s only institute dedicated to public relations education. Know more about our PG programme in public relations , and other activities we do to share public relations Knowledge: www.scoreindia.org