R-E-S-P-E-C-T : Why Public Relations Doesn’t Always Receive It

As a Senior Strategic Communications student, I am used to having relatives I haven’t seen in a while ask, “What exactly is it that you are studying?” When I tell them that I eventually want to get into public relations, they look at me like they have no idea what I am talking about They then go on to ask if it’s like Advertising or like Marketing, and they still don’t understand the importance (or relevance) of what I want to do.
When talking to friends who hope to break into public relations, this seems to be a wide spread issue, and recently while looking through other blogs, I have noticed others seeing this as well.  Patrick Coffee, from PRNewser goes into the five things that make public relations such a hard job to understand, and in turn, respect:
  • Problems measuring success. Public Relations campaigns are not a hard science. You can’t use x+y=z in the PR realm. Certain things will work for certain people and not others. Also, it is hard to calculate the exact value in media coverage since there is no specific dollar amount to relate it to.
  • Problems with scalability. Business people sometimes think that if one idea worked, just do more of it! This is almost never the case with public relations work, and it is hard for some to understand why this is. 
  • Bad relations with journalists. The mass email is NOT your friend–it’s that simple. Some PR professionals don’t understand that they need to tailor their pitches to emphasize how it benefits and fulfills each specific journalist’s wants and needs. 
  • PR cannot fix everything. Arthur W. Page, the first PR man to serve on the board of directors of a major company is known for the principle “Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says.” When a brand hits rock bottom, such as BP, the public generally won’t buy what its PR team is selling. There is no use in putting lipstick on a pig.
How do you explain to people what you do? Do you think the emergence of newer PR tools, such as social media, are helping others see how important public relations is to an organization?
This guest blog post was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Jessica Ross.
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