“So what exactly do you do?”
I get this question a lot. Seriously. A lot.
It seems, despite the Public Relations Society of America’s best efforts, far too many people still have very little understanding of public relations as a profession. More often than not, folks have grabbed hold of one aspect of the profession and decide that is the full breadth and scope of the field.
“You help your clients get into news stories, right?”
The above statement describes PR about as completely as asking someone at Apple if they just “sell phones.”
Media relations is one important aspect of PR, but it doesn’t cover the profession by half.
Our job is to be a true strategic partner with our clients. We help them communicate with all of their audiences, including stockholders, management, employees, customers, local communities, industry influencers, government officials, and the media. Within each of those groups, there are countless subgroups we must consider, often outside the interest and view of the media.
We help to build networks for our clients, introducing them to community and business leaders, government officials, special interest groups, employee advocates, industry insiders and online communities. We conduct research and write position papers. We offer insights and suggestions during the development of marketing campaigns, and we advise human resource professionals on messaging to employees of the company. We partner with lawyers when client-related legal matters are referenced in the media, and we advise on, and integrate with, social media strategies and messaging. We collaborate on planning that ranges from celebratory events to disaster scenarios, and we interface with multiple departments to drive and/or support ongoing brand reputation management practices.
PR pros play many parts: advocates, diplomats, strategists, trusted advisors, communicators and content managers, with our clients. On any given day, we might play one or all of the above roles with a few extras thrown in just to keep us sharp.
So, with respect to the PRSA and their efforts to define the practice, the answer I’ve developed in the last few years feels a little less jargony and appropriate for the cocktail party set as well. In 25 words, what I do is this:
“I help clients communicate better, with honesty and integrity, to those most important to them. Sometimes I also get them in the Wall Street Journal.”