Please raise your hands if you plan to go into journalism. < Half the room raises hands>
Please raise your hands if you plan to go into public relations. <Remainder raise hands>
Now shake each other’s hands. You all just made some of the most valuable business contacts no matter which field you choose.
Then I usually dive into my elevator speech about the importance of journalism training for both disciplines, followed by the likelihood that 100% of the room will most likely take part in both industries at some point in their lives. Eventually, I get to the topic the professor asked me to speak on as well.
My above belief is one of the reasons I am so pleased to have Darren Copeland as our guest blogger today – a true communications Renaissance Man. From producing to reporting to authoring to PR consulting, he has done it all and lived to tell about it.
Next month, he will be leading a breakout session at the PRSA Western District Conference in Denver about combining strategic communications skills learned from journalism and public relations to help drive clients – and the media – wild. The session, aptly titled “And the Crowd Goes Wild,” is one of about a dozen fabulous breakouts planned for the conference. More details here.
On this “What is…” Wednesday – we must ask:
Darren, what is public relations to a Renaissance Man like you?
As Alison mentions, my background is as a journalist and talk show host, but I got into public relations after reading hundreds of press releases that were sent to me each day. I can remember thinking, after a new batch of faxes hit my desk that too many public relations folks were writing press releases without really advocating for their clients.
I believe that public relations is all about image advocacy. What I'm trying to do for my clients is to help them to highlight why they are the best at whatever it is they do. Now within image advocacy, there are two sides. The first is image enhancement and the second is reputation management.
With image enhancement, I try to find out what makes a particular client special. Are they creating cutting edge products that will save the world? Does their CEO give all their money to charitable causes? Do they have special employees? All of these questions create stories that may interest a journalist, the public and future clients. Once I find out what makes them special, I do my best to tell as many people as possible. It could be through a press release. It might be a blog post. It might even be through some sort of guerrilla event. I want to do everything I can to show the world that this client is worthy of their patronage
Now the other side, unfortunately, is reputation management. This involves handling anything the might hurt my client's good name. It could be a product recall, or an issue that the client had forced upon them without them doing anything wrong, it's my job to make sure that the client's side is heard and helping get all the problems fixed. Most folks understand that people make mistakes or that unfortunate events happen from time to time. It's how a client responds to those bad times that tell them about the character of a company. If a client takes care of their customers, be it giving employees CPR training in case of a medical emergency, or doing a little extra to help a customer who's having a problem with a new product, it shows the world that this company cares about these people and are interested in having happy, repeat clientele.
That's why I think of public relations as image advocacy. By helping a client put their best foot forward, I can help them to focus on what they do best. Being the best company they can possibly be.