“So you do public relations?Â Â That’s writing press releases and getting publicity, right?”
I had just met my interogator at a luncheon. We had squeezed hands across the stale breadrolls and were attempting to make small talk before the presentation started. She was a youngish human resources professional and, like many HR people, was trying to show her mastery of knowledge of just about every corporate position.
“Well, that’s part of it,” I said. “But writing news releases and getting publicity is really just media relations.”
“What’s public relations then?” she asked.
Public relations uses media relations, but it’s just one of the tools at our disposal, I explained. PR is about using various means of persuasion to influence opinion,Â to buildÂ strategic relationships and to foster mutual understanding between an organization and its various publics. A news release is an important tool, but there are many more.
For instance, I explained, one of the oldest PR tactics in the book is the speech. The speaker at our luncheon would, no doubt, use his opportunity to demonstrate his expertise, win adherents to his point of view and (in general) spread the gospel according to him and his company. The brochures that his company left on the table are another tactic at play, as are the various efforts to refine his presentation with PowerPoint and a corporate display behind the podium.
I frequently need to explain the breadth ofÂ public relations and its utility to people I meet. I don’t think it is just a Winnipeg thing; people in larger centres seem to have a misconception about the practice as well.
I was very gratified the other day to get a call from a business leader who I have worked with only at a distance. He said he’d learned a great deal about how powerful public relations can be by working with Dooley Communications. He had called to ask if he could refer me to a business acquaintance who needed to turn around some negative (and untrue) perceptions about his company. He was “in to it up to his eyeballs” as he put it.
Good PR is indeed a strategic business function.Â Maybe I should write a news release explaining that.