Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The role of the PR practioner

As a PR student, if someone were to ask you what you are studying in school and you said PR, you would get many different responses. "PR is politics right?" or "PR is talking right?" or the most common "What is PR?" Well this is because what people know, the media knows, and the field knows (the latter I believe is correct) about PR are entirely different.

However, no matter what people think about what PR really is, it is important for you to know what your role is as someone practicing PR as a profession. This gets me to the very fancy term of "PR practitioner", something that in a few years I along with you will be (forgive me those who already are). By knowing what role you play in this world based on communication, the next time someone asks you what you do, you will look a little less red faced.

Public relations or PR, as it is more commonly referred to, is one of the most misunderstood disciplines. Many media types think a PR practitioners job is simply spinning stories, lying to the media, and saying the much overused but popular "no comment". They simply believe a PR practitioners role is simply to be a master spin doctor.

All of this could not be further from the truth. This is because what PR is really about is relationships. Not tragic relationships such as that of Romeo and Juliet, but relationships that are formed, maintained, and lasting. PR is about building relationships with your peers, journalists, upper management such as CEOs and CFOs and the big one...publics.

Publics are the key to PR. Publics are those groups of people who may buy products from an organization, follow the organization, or have just a general interest in the organization. Using Apple, as an example, you are able to see the different publics that can be involved in PR.

There are so many people who buy their products (Ipod, Iphone, Iwhatever), follow their organization (this can be done through the newspaper, or online media) and have a general interest in the organization (So when is the new Ipod coming out?).

As the PR practitioner, we are the ones who are responsible for communicating to these publics. This is done by targeting them with the right messages. Ok so I lied a bit. PR is just not about relationships and publics, it is about messages too.

Whoever you talk to, you want to have the right message(s) come across. In PR this is no different. That is why when you are targeting these publics, sending them the right message is critical. Empty words "no comment" do not qualify for sending the right messages. You have to see what your publics want to know and then come up with the right messages to send to give them that information.

When you put these three together: relationships, publics, and messages, you start to see the beginnings of what PR is and what you will do in your career as a PR practitioner. You will be forming relationships with people, especially publics, analyzing what these publics want to know, then communicating to them with the right messages.

In a nutshell, this is what PR the role of a PR practitioner is. But that's just scratching the surface. Once you make the jump into figuring out why it is for you and why that is, you will start to unravel the true power and role the PR practitioner plays in every aspect of communications. A role that seems to be growing and playing more importance each and every day.