PR’s Generation Gap

At Sunday dinners, I can usually predict the questions my Poppop will ask me: ”How are your classes?” “Are any boys bothering you?” “You’re not walking anywhere alone, right?” However, at our last family dinner, he threw me a curve ball by asking, “So what exactlyis it that you do?” I had no response. An image I saw from a PR daily article popped into my head.
Before I could respond, he asked “spin stuff?” My mouth dropped open. My Poppop has been known to use four-letter words from time to time, but I could not believe he used THIS four-letter word! I started rambling off anything to make him believe PR is anything but spin. But looking back it makes me wonder, is there a generation gap surrounding PR?
Of course in the picture above there is a big question mark above “what my parents (and grandparents) think I do.” Being a veteran, my Poppop thinks of PR as propaganda rallying for the World Wars and protesting Vietnam. PR professionals were the ones “behind the scenes” to play up JFK’s young, attractive image and use it against Nixon.  He remembers them as the ones who “spun” scandals to cover political leaders. Remember learning about the Watergate scandal? How about Clinton’s famous lines “I did not have sexual relations with that woman?”
How do people see PR now? Well, the Samantha Joneses of the world would describe it as event planning, attending galas and getting your client to appear at the hottest places.  Just take a look at “what my friends think I do.” Not to mention, the belief PR professionals are glued to their smart phones tweeting like crazy (we DO still check Facebook!).
Both generations have it wrong! PR involves so much more than rescuing a politician or planning a gala. It takes the ability to think on your feet. The press release is not totally dead, so you need to be a strong writer. PR people must keep up with the latest news. You must understand the media’s side and know how to pitch journalists. Having a business sense is also highly recommended. PR is job that takes years to build up credibility and only a second to destroy it. If we really did “what our friends think we do” there would be a lot more broken AP style rules in our writing.
There are a million ways to describe what “we actually do.” But is there just one definition? Definitely not. How do you define PR?
This guest blog post was written by PRowl Staff Member Lauren Bentley.

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