It so happens that representatives of various professions often follow the proverb “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot”. It usually happens that a watchmaker owns a watch, which does not work properly, while a shoemaker wears boots that are worn out. Public relations are no exception. Even though this activity is focused on the creation of reputation and on-going consultations on the issues related thereto, the public relations profession itself has a rather bad reputation in society. Only a small part of people realize that this is a good and appropriate activity.
We have to admit that we, communicators, ourselves are responsible for the kind of PR reputation which has formed nowadays and what the public thinks about us. Being engaged in a number of works, we have very little time left to tell about who we really are, what we do and what we strive for. Furthermore, we often impair the reputation of our profession not only by the omission of actions, but by acting as well. Quite often I get to meet people who identify their activities as public relations, even though in fact their work has nothing to do with that. For instance, I happened to see an internet website of an agency listed as providing PR services, where a possibility to arrange a famine campaign (supposedly we will starve for you, if needed) was named as one of the methods for solving and publicizing issues. Calling such a service, which artificially creates an incident deriving from other than own beliefs, a PR would be absurd; instead it should be clearly identified as cheating.
In a broader view, it is enough to listen to politicians and public figures – when they talk about PR, this activity almost always has a negative connotation. Most often when these people try to criticize the opponent, the latter is said to be “engaged in PR”, “these are public relations”. And people actually engaged in active communication are treated as those doing nothing of value, simply trying to take advantage of public relations. Society believes that PR specialists are engaged in deceptions incomprehensible to people; that they are using certain secret technologies and try to affect people’s opinions. Ironically enough, this is a currently prevailing image of my profession and only people who work in this field are aware of the fact that the publicly dominant perception of PR is only vague reflections of this activity – actually such things have nothing in common with what real PR is.
I started thinking where the real side of the perception of this activity has gone? After all, I believe that PR is a good, positive, and respectable profession to be chosen and understood by many people, without seeing these specialists as doing something bad. I am sure that PR acts as a basis for a social and communicating society. In a world with an ever-increasing need for exchange of information, the role of a communicator is especially important. In this environment the number of people who wish to intensively communicate is constantly increasing, leading to a problem that not everybody is capable of doing that. Therefore I often find it funny listening to such observations that: “this politician speaks in his own words, while this politician has someone who writes speeches for him.” But in fact neither of the cases should be condemned. It makes no difference whether a politician writes speeches, his blog, maintains his Facebook profile by himself or has someone who does that for him – in both cases the reader is faced with the views of that same person, who holds and is willing to communicate to them. After all, not all doctors, businessmen or politicians are great communicators by nature, not all of them know how to quickly and effectively tell society about what good and useful things they do for the sake of it. Thus, in such a case, a communication specialist simply helps a person not able to communicate well.
I firmly believe that PR activities, more than any other type of activities, are transparent and based on trust. It is quite difficult to measure, but it is true that one inaccurate step, one lie or deception in PR activities could lead to very bad consequences. In such a case, one can never be sure when these inappropriate works will come out; moreover, they are most likely to emerge when a specific result of your work will depend on them. The math is simple here – once you take a wrong step and deceive someone – you immediately become vulnerable, your reputation is shaken. In such a case, negative consequences will also directly affect a customer, because each thought said about him automatically becomes hardly believable because of your own controversial steps. It means nothing to people to simply say “you of all people should better keep quiet”.
Therefore, all PR professionals thinking about the reputation of their profession must seriously evaluate each step they take. By acting fairly and finding time to explain to others who we really are, what we do and what we seek, we could expect a significant impetus for the development and support of the reputation of our customers as well as that of our profession.