For a number of years, the marketing name of my company has been NewMediaRules Communications. As of today, that’s history. The new brand (accompanied by a redesigned logo) is NewMediaRules Public Relations.
Here’s why. Communications no longer means anything. (I’m not sure it ever did.) My computer communicates. So does my TV. Couples break up over poor communication. When I tell my hound it’s time for his walk, he runs straight to our older pup, who’s deaf, to let her know. Pups, like ants and whales, know how to communicate just fine.
Public Relations, on the other hand, has a very specific meaning. It’s a critical management function, and here’s my favorite textbook definition: It’s identifying, establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.
Let’s break that down. Your organization, like mine, has to have the cooperation – or at least the consent – of a lot of different groups to succeed. Who are some of them? Owners are a gimme, so publicly held companies have people to manage their investor relations. Most firms rely on employees, and if your relationships with employees are bad, nothing works very well. So employee relations is another piece of the craft. Let’s not forget the customers. If they get unhappy, or if you’re not giving them what they need, you’re in big trouble.
Those are just a few obvious ones. Others take a little more work to identify. There are regulatory agencies, consumer groups, suppliers and dozens more. Very few companies can actively manage their relationships with all of these, so we have to figure which ones are important, what they want, what they believe, and how they’re acting.
So in most standard models of PR practice, we start with research. It may be formal research like polling or an informal gathering of information from secondary sources. Public relations always includes planning. A solid public relations plan is measurable, time-specific and tied to the organization’s broader goals (such as making money). Then of course, there’s the part most people think of – taking action and communicating. If we skip straight to this aspect, we may be wasting time and money doing the wrong things.
Every complete PR plan includes evaluation – the more rigorous and objective, the better. Because if we don’t know how we’re doing, we won’t get any better next round. (If you’re looking for a way to identify a novice or hack, listen for the words, “You can’t measure PR.” You sure as hell can, and you’d better.)
You can get your communications degree and work a lifetime without seeing the big picture. But there’s one way to make sure you’re getting a pro with a full understanding of the business: Look for the “APR” behind the name.
One of the most rewarding things I’ve done is help other professionals gain their accreditation, and as I write this, we’re getting ready to launch our spring classes. Our faculty consists of top professionals from major corporations, public relations agencies, universities and other institutions. We’ll do our best to get them prepared to pass a very challenging exam, and if we get it right, we’ll have a bunch of new APRs by the end of the year.
Our faculty puts a lot of work into this, for no pay, because they want to make our profession stronger. I’m proud of them.
Most of all, I’m proud to be a Public Relations professional. That’s why my business logo finally reflects it.