When Is Public Relations Not So Public?


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I have a habit of talking up interesting companies. Whether or not they have anything to do with the industries we specialize in, I can’t resist the occasional out of the blue email or call just to find out more about businesses that strike my fancy. Often, I learn about what they do and why, but I also get a tremendous amount of information about the public perception of public relations — especially about how our work can be misunderstood.

Maybe it’s the name. (It does say “public.”) Or maybe there’s been too much bad rhetoric. But I frequently encounter the impression of PR as a megaphone — an attention-getter, a potentially stylish way of yelling, “Hey, LOOK AT ME!! OVER HERE!!” For some companies there is a flat-out boost in something as simple as name recognition. But for a lot of industries, the point of PR is infinitely subtler than that — it’s about crafting and delivering a moving message for an appropriate audience. Not the public, but your public. There’s a significant difference.

For responsible PR people, the addition of social media tools and online expectations has actually highlighted this distinction — and thank God for that. The micro-targeting pressure from that field has been at the core of great PR questions all along: Who are you targeting? How do you reach them? What stories can you unearth from the whole of a company to make communication a personal connection that becomes a relationship? That can happen on Twitter, in a blog, in an email, or in a well-placed byline. The medium matters only in so far as it’s appropriate to the message, and it alway starts from the single base question, to whom should your story matter?

It’s pretty rare that the answer is “no one.”

I ran across a particularly fascinating organization recently; a group I loved on sight that had absolutely no interest in PR. And while their business is not hurting for lack of press clippings, I do suspect that their larger goals may be hindered by their vow of silence. If I had my druthers, I would help them build a non-marketing persona. Not a blast-out blog, but a visibly thoughtful, dare I say it, corporate soul. For them, that would be appropriate PR. And not a press release in sight.

Sometimes PR just really isn’t about marquee placement for the company name or a loved-up profile of the CEO. At best, the emphasis is less on “public” than on “relations,” the deepest and most valuable of which are sometimes very quiet indeed.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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