Public Relations: A Misunderstood Profession

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The results of a poll conducted by LinkedIn show that PR  is ranked No. 7 out of 10 jobs on the list of most confusing professions. Social media manager ranked No. 3. The professional networking site surveyed about 8,000 parents worldwide. Nearly 42% of these people who have children working in PR management said they could not describe what it is their son or daughter does for a living; for kids in social media management jobs, about 59%. To read the full article, click here.

While it may not come as a shock to some, it opened my eyes to how misunderstood our profession really is, part of the reason being that people simply don’t know what it is we do or understand the value. LinkedIn suggested a solution to this problem: make November 7 “Bring Your Parents to Work Day.” As clever as a reversal of “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” sounds, I feel like there should be a better way to raise awareness (PR professionals of the world, UNITE!). All kidding aside – maybe we should start by explaining what public relations is. Often times PR is broken down to handling the media and gaining publicity for a client to make them look good. It’s so much more than that. It’s a craft.

PRSA describes public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their publics.” For more information on the PRSA and its definition of PR, click here. PR is all about an exchange of information. It’s about engaging and keeping an open dialogue with a client or company’s stakeholders (employees, customers, the media, investors, activists, etc). This builds trust and credibility which raises the client’s reputation. As students, we learn that reputation is key. A damaged reputation is very hard to fix once that trust is broken. That’s why to be a successful PR person, it’s important to have a code of ethics to set boundaries and protect reputation. It’s also good to be adaptable, trustworthy and be able to write.

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4 responses to “Public Relations: A Misunderstood Profession

  1. Good post! I totally agree. PR is definitely a misunderstood profession, mostly because of what you mention at the bottom: reputation. I think that, overall, the whole PR field has gotten a bad reputation. Often in the media, PR professionals are portrayed as money-hungry liars (a little old, but a good example: http://usat.ly/1fAy3GJ), or cute, dumb girls (See PR bunny: http://bit.ly/Shvgni).

    So, perhaps in real life, following a strict code of ethics is how we can help define PR and get our group reputation in order.

    But, every person could have a different set of boundaries that they are willing to cross. Do you think that individual opinions about what is ethical is hindering our ability to get a “good” reputation and, therefore, to really define what we do to the public?

    • Thank you! Those articles you included also prove that the industry has a bad reputation. I actually had a similar conversation today in ethics class. PR professionals are often called spin doctors. It helps if every person has their own baseline for a code of ethics that they follow. However, I do think individual opinions of what is ethical hinders our reputation. It would do more good if there was a definitive set of guidelines for industry members to follow with some sort of consequences if an individual or company fails to behave in accordance with those standards. The PRSA has a code of ethics but they can’t enforce it.

  2. Great post! You hit it right on the money with this post. I agree with completely that PR is one of the most misunderstand professions. No matter how many times I even try to explain in depth detail to my family they still have no idea what PR is! its so frustrating because PR is essential in every aspect of every industry in order for a business to successfully thrive. The information you provided was very informative and great to learn.

  3. This post could not be more true. When someone asks me, “what field are you in?” everyone assumes it is advertising. They have no idea how important PR really is and how much goes into the field. I try and explain what PR professionals are all about but it is a never ending battle to make everyone understand. I wish we were able to take our parents to school so they can learn how important PR is. Thank you for the insight!

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