I Know What You Are, But What Am I?

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The holidays have always meant the same thing; my extended family comes over for an evening of food, fun, and a decent amount of wine. There are also the inevitable conversations about our careers, when I get the question, “what exactly do you do?”

Of course, I answer that I am a Public Relations professional for an array of clients in different industries. The response? Blank stares and someone says “Oh yeah! Like that Samantha Jones from ‘Sex and the City’.”

Uhm, not quite.

Explaining to my family what Public Relations is — and what I do on a day-to-day basis – is entertaining. I’m always surprised at how little some know and how on point others are. Most thought I spent my days planning lavish parties, or attending events with Boston’s elite. I pulled up the PRSA definition that was created earlier this year and read it aloud to my audience:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I think this definition hits the nail on the head. We PR Gurus are the storytellers. We shape and mold what you see from our clients. We ensure that the message we convey advances or protects our client’s image, audience, and goals.

After an enlightening conversation about public relations, I thought; if my family doesn’t know what PR is, what does the general community think? I was intrigued and compelled to find out! With the help of my fellow EZG’er-turned-camera-woman, Jenn, I hit the streets of Needham to ask average Joes two questions; what is public relations, and could they name someone or a company that needs public relations assistance?

Some of the participants we asked had answers that were in the ball park. I was surprised to find out that one woman was able to touch on key points of what a PR pro does and even named a hot topic in the news (General Patraeus).

Although I think the PRSA definition illustrates the profession of Public Relations well, it’s still missing the heart and soul. Public relations professionals know the story from the inside out and vice versa – we track the news and media, write pitches and releases, liaise with media, and yes, we utilize acronyms that were taught in school. We are smart and savvy, and are “people persons.” We have strong social media skills, and know that preparation, planning, and research are necessities to creating a successful PR campaign. When a crisis breaks out, we step in with strategies that have been carefully crafted to suit a client’s situation. We engage with the target audience, and tell the client’s story in the most compelling light.

The moral of the story?  As good as we are at telling our clients’ stories, we may need to upgrade the way we talk about our own profession.

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