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Public Relations: The Decision is (Ultimately) Yours

May 27, 2009

I hear all the time about “what PR is” – whether it is building relationships, branding strategy, media relations, etc. Here’s my thought: PR is what YOU make of it.

Alphabet ChalkboardEvery job and role is different – even if you have the same title as another PR professional. You might be writing a press release one day and playing media spokesperson at a conference the next. You might never have plan events at one job, but your PR BFF is going to openings every other night.

What makes us the same, then? The passion that we bring to the field. Yes, it’s what we make of it. Everyday, every task, are you giving it 100 percent? Do you believe that much in your brand and your clients that you feel you are failing if not? The best PR professionals are the ones that are eager to learn and dedicated to their brand – whether it is personal or professional. You need to have such an impact on a brand that you “define” PR yourself for your brand. The principles will always be the same – even in the evolving world of new and online media.  It’s the little things you do to show that passion that will set you apart – and shows that PR is what you make of it.

I’ve found that by connecting with people who are fellow PR pros that I am that much better – and I can share a passion with people who truly understand. I received a great tip from my friend Jason Sprenger a couple weeks ago about pitching media – he suggested I call my own voicemail to hear what I sound like. We had been discussing best practices, and I told him I practice in front of a mirror at least 30 minutes a night. (I used to have a terrible fear of cold calling – I wouldn’t even call to order a pizza)

By defining PR in the sense of “it’s what you make of it” you are outlining what your dedication is. That dedication will always show through – even if you don’t know something. That dedication will form questions. PR, in essence, is all about caring – caring about the brand, caring about the reputation, caring about the positive or negative light that is cast in news articles.

So, what’s your definition?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Carroll Burney permalink
    May 27, 2009 6:08 pm

    I love what you say about being dedicated to your brand – whether personal or professional. I think that our brand as professionals is really seen in our personal lives, too, and to make them completely separate is not necessarily a good thing (which I know you’ve said before, too!). If you have passion for work, your passion for life is probably right there, too. If you just go to work to get a paycheck, I think it’s a huge disservice to your employer and yourself. No matter what, you have to love what you do first and foremost – the rewards will always follow!

    • May 28, 2009 12:02 pm

      Carroll – Great point about branding and about not “working for the paycheck.” If you are, get out! You won’t be putting anything worth your client’s time and money into a project, even if you think you are.

  2. @hotlotto permalink
    May 27, 2009 6:13 pm

    Well said!

  3. May 27, 2009 6:19 pm

    Ah yes…the voicemail pitch. A great way to practice pitching and improve your media relations skills anytime, anywhere, all on your own.

    PR is absolutely what you make of it. I speak regularly with up-and-comers and recent graduates trying to land entry-level jobs, and there’s one universal truth that I relay to them: you can always get better. Heck, I know I can always get better, and even CEOs I’ve worked with say the same thing…self-improvement isn’t just for the youngest pros by any means. You can always meet more people and tap them for information. You can always pitch your voicemail to learn how you sound to a reporter, and tweak accordingly. You can always write…and write…and write, and read some more so you’re able to write better. All of these and so much more…and all it takes is a little drive and dedication. If you do something each day to better yourself, even something little, you’ll land somewhere you want to be a lot sooner (and you’ll ultimately be a lot happier) than your peers who aren’t as proactive.

    Thanks Lauren…always an honor to be mentioned in this space!


    • May 28, 2009 12:03 pm

      Jason – Great comment and insight as always. I can’t think of anything more to add – you said it all!

  4. May 27, 2009 6:22 pm

    Nice Post, Lauren! It all comes down to what YOU bring to the table – be it with an old idea or a new one, you have to OWN IT!

    Once you ‘own it’ you bring your personal brand of passion , energy and enthusiasm that is totally unique and memorable.

  5. May 27, 2009 6:43 pm

    Great post, Lauren!

    You’re absolutely right– passion, caring, dedication, and the will to learn more are supremely important for PR.



    • May 28, 2009 12:04 pm

      Tom – Thanks for reading! I am glad that others see that passion, caring and dedication are so important in this field.

  6. Brenna Sowder permalink
    May 27, 2009 7:29 pm

    Lauren — love this! I always think how much can be gained through collaborating with other PR pros, putting aside any nagging sense of competition and learning about our (often very different) jobs and how to be our best every day. As a relative neophyte, this sharing is so important in cultivating ongoing excellence in our field.

    Thank you for your insight!

    • May 28, 2009 12:00 pm

      Brenna – One of my favorite quotes is “Sharing is caring.” If we care about our brand, about our field – we should always be willing to share. Thanks for reading – and what a great point!

  7. May 27, 2009 10:59 pm

    What’s interesting here is that “defining PR in the sense of “it’s what you make of it” you are outlining what your dedication is.” runs into a lot of social media people’s argument that PR needs to step off. I’ll argue that PR needs to step in. Because organizing and manipulating the flow of information into coherent streams is what we do best. Social media=Communication.

    • May 28, 2009 11:59 am

      S – Amen to that. Communication is always changing, and PR people need to step in. We can’t be set in our ways and never change – the world doesn’t work that way, especially in the world of Web 2.0. Thanks for such an insightful comment!

  8. May 28, 2009 2:07 am

    Quick & easy response – PR is relationships. The concept isn’t the hard part, it’s the execution that requires the talent. I know it’s much, much more; but when talking with non-PR folks, I think this is the easiest way to portray the overall picture of public relations.


    • May 28, 2009 11:58 am

      Kasey – Exactly. That is what I usually tell people when trying to “explain” PR – it is about the relationships. My point was that you have to have dedication to learning in this field to get anywhere.

  9. May 28, 2009 4:00 am

    I think much of it comes down to work ethic. Those professionals with the strongest work ethics will be the ones who take the extra time to work on their craft, learn how to use new tools, and ultimately are better prepared for the “what’s next” that inevitably comes to us all.

    • May 28, 2009 11:57 am

      Richie – Great point. Work ethic is key when it comes to PR professionals. When you look at the PRSA Code of Ethics, you can see that in every single line.

  10. May 28, 2009 11:50 am

    I’ve been in PR for 18 years. It took more than 10 for me to hear a good definition of what it was that I was doing.

    Public relations is the art of communicating a message by leveraging the credibility of a third party. PR is getting other people to help sell whatever it is you’re selling.

    Think about it. Whatever you’re selling, when you do PR, you’re getting other people to credibly tell your story. Whether it’s journalists, bloggers, spokespeople.

    I think what’s happening today is that people are confusing public relations with other forms of communications. Writing a blog is NOT PR. Tweeting is NOT PR. Being on Facebook is NOT PR. These activities are – as best I can tell – direct marketing.

    These activities can be PR if they lead to third-party coverage of some sort, or if they result in people talking about you in a good way.

    • May 28, 2009 11:56 am

      Hi Alan – Thanks for reading. Don’t you think, though, that the other forms of communication can enhance the basics of PR? The principles will always be there, and you can use different platforms to get your message across.

      When you state “leveraging the credibility of a third party” are you talking about an agency person communicating a client message? What if the person is in a corporate, association or non-profit setting? Then that person is leveraging the brand that they represent.

      PR, to me, is ever changing. The basic definition is still there- but that’s why I state it’s what you make of it. I was referring to the dedication you show to learning the new principles and applying the old ones. The “old” ones will always be the foundation and will always be there.

  11. May 28, 2009 12:25 pm

    Great post!I agree, bringing dedication & enthusiasm to PR (or whatever your chosen career path may be) is vital to being successful.

  12. June 11, 2009 4:44 pm

    Hey Lauren,
    I’m a rat who jumped from the sinking ship of newspaper journalism last year. After nine months on the job, I’m still trying to figure out what PR is. Can you tell me if there is a listserv of some sort where PR professionals can bounce questions off each other (e.g., “My boss wants me to come up with an hourly rate for my services, what should I charge?”). Thanks for any help you can offer. I appreciate your blog.
    Lewis Taylor

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