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Unlike many professions, most members of the general public have no idea what public relations is or what PR pros do. You know what I mean. You’ve been met with the “I’m going to nod my head like I know what that is but my face will give away that I’m clueless” look before.
Doctors don’t have this problem. Nor do insurance salesmen. For that matter, even our brethren in the marketing mix don’t have this issue. Tell Joe Normal you’re in advertising and he knows exactly what you’re talking about.
Part of that is probably due to the fact that much of the work in PR lies behind the scenes. We pitch the stories, but journalists write them. We write the speeches, but executives deliver them. We plan the corporate social responsibility campaign, but the CEO accepts the accolades.
Our daily professional lives cover such a broad range of strategic initiatives and tactical activities that it can be hard to even know where to start when explaining PR to a non-marketing person. So what do you say when they ask, “What’s that?” I try to make it relevant for them by putting it in terms of what they experience. Something like:
“I help companies communicate with people – customers, employees, legislators. And with you! If you’ve read a story in a newspaper or on CNN.com on a new product, a PR pro shared that with the reporter and lined up the interviews. If you see a business leader delivering a speech, a PR pro probably wrote it. If you happen across a really cool event in Bryant Park, a PR pro likely played a major part in the idea behind it. We work with executives to figure out the smartest, most effective ways to engage with people, let them know what’s going on with the company, and get their thoughts and feedback.”
What about you? How do you explain PR to your Aunt Martha or the guy sitting next to you on the airplane in a few sentences?
*Image by Keven Law.