“What is…” Wednesday – What is Public Relations? Nancy Syzdek’s Take

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Explaining public relations is tough enough – but explaining it to 1st GRADERS?!

Nancy Syzdek, APR, of JT3, who is also the 2011 Public Relations Society of America Western District Conference Chair heading up the big April event (check it out here), did just that.

And today, on this “What is…Wednesday,” she shares with us how she did it. She joins fellow PRSA Western District Conference folks Pete Codella and Cathy Tull in doing so.

Take it away, Nancy:

At the beginning of the school year, my daughter’s first grade teacher was looking for parents and family members to come to the class to talk about our careers. Some folks have it easy. One parent is a judge. There’s a nurse and general contractor. There’s a biologist and an accountant. All of them have very tangible, relatable explanations that six and seven-year olds can understand.

Explaining PR to 30 first graders? That’s the challenge of my week. I can tell them what I do in a day.


  • Ask
  • Listen
  • Think
  • Talk a little
  • Read
  • Write some
  • Think more
  • Add
  • Subtract
  • Multiply
  • Divide
  • Think harder
  • Write more
  • Talk
  • Listen harder
  • Think again

While all this work between my brain and my fingers doesn’t yield a tangible widget, it does mean something. So, like Pete, I explain the results.


  • Help my company and our employees understand each other better
  • Give my bosses advice about how their decisions and actions will affect others
  • Educate my company’s employees about the great things we do and how to do their best work
  • Make sure my company looks as good as it can to other companies in the same industry
  • Help my company and our employees do good things for people in the community

My first grader and her friends may not understand all the knowledge, experience and hard work that make those results a reality. They won’t understand the political minefields my colleagues and I navigate daily to produce websites, newsletters, blogs, and other tools and tactics. Their strategic planning ability is focused on figuring how to be just good enough to stay in the teacher’s good graces while having some silly fun in class.

However, soon they will understand more about the subtleties of language, the importance of strategy, and measuring your progress to determine the return on investment. For now, they will understand what they can relate to: making and keeping friends, working hard and doing your best, using great stories to teach others, and helping the community.

All in all, not bad for a day’s work.

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio

1 Comment

  1. Alison Bailin says:

    This totally reminds me of “Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarden” – the public relations edition. My fave — listen harder. Great guest post!

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