Now Public Relations Actually Relates with the Public
I was thinking yesterday about some of the calls I used to take when I worked in corporate communications for a national retailer. Most of the time when my phone rang, a reporter was on the other end. Every so often, however, a customer with a complaint would call. Customer complaints weren’t really my department, but I would listen and try to help if I could. Quite often, I would have to transfer them to customer support. At times, this caused the customer to become irritated. I would calmly tell them that I worked in public relations, and I needed to send them to someone who could more effectively handle customer issues. On more than one occasion, this led to the customer to say something along the lines of, “You’re in public relations, and I’m a member of the pubic … why can’t you handle my problem?”
Truth is, despite the fact that my profession is public relations, until a relatively short time ago I (and most of my peers) didn’t actually deal with the public all that often. My job, and the job of most of the vast majority of PR professionals out there, was to either solicit media coverage, handle incoming media inquiries, or to manage the media in a crisis. In each case, we didn’t take our news directly to the public. Sure … we would sometimes organize an event that was open to the public, but in most cases the main reason for the event was actually to draw news coverage.
It’s no secret that the world has changed due to the social media tools we now have at our disposal. Now we can blog, we can grow an audience on Facebook or Twitter, we can create our own online videos, and we can even distribute our news release directly to the public rather than politely asking reporters to write about it for us. While taking this news directly to the public, we’re actually communicating with them one-on-one in a way that wasn’t possible just a few years back.
While the media is still an important tool for disseminating news from my clients, it’s hardly the only way to go about it. Now, it actually makes sense to call our profession PUBLIC relations.
Note: Part of what got me thinking about this was a blog post from colleague and friend Jon Newman, on how PR can capitalize on winning the “battle” over social media within organizations. Good read. Check it out here.