As you know, we do a feature on Wednesday’s called “What Is…” and ask professionals from across all disciplines to answer specific questions. Today’s What Is… Public Relations is answered by my good friend Lisa Lochridge, APR. Lisa and I first met about 10 years ago when we were both representing the same client. She was with a public relations firm in Orlando and handled the client’s work in that part of the country; we were here in Phoenix working on their efforts on this side of the country.
Lisa is now the public affairs director for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. So Lisa, what is public relations….
In my first career at a major Florida daily newspaper, my parents had a hard time understanding what I did because I was an editor, not a reporter. My dad always wanted to know why he never saw my name in the paper. When I took a job at a public relations agency after a 21-year journalism career, I found that it was even harder to explain what my job was. I usually resorted to talking about tactics, because that was easiest for non-PR folks to understand: I wrote articles and columns, I talked to reporters, I trained people to talk to the media, I arranged interviews, I helped companies when they were in a crisis … those kinds of things.
But that’s not the whole of public relations. My PR “elevator speech” is pretty basic: PR professionals help our companies (or clients) build and strengthen relationships with the groups of people who are most important to their business success. You can slice it and dice it however you want, but the key is relationships. We do that by having clear objectives and developing strategies for what we want to communicate to whom, when, and how.
I’ve been around awhile -– reporters still wrote stories on typewriters when I started my career. And I think to some extent the explosive growth of social media has muddied the PR waters. We get caught up in the hows and wherefores of these amazing new tools at our disposal and forget that no matter what channel you use, the goal should still be relationship-building. Otherwise you’re wasting your time and resources.
Whether it’s through a hard-copy weekly newsletter (Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association members are farmers, and the majority still like to have a piece of paper to read), an e-mail blast or regular tweets about a particular issue, my objectives are to show our members the value they receive for their FFVA membership and that they can help shape public policy through their involvement.
What do you think? In this world of new media, is it harder or easier to build relationships with the people who matter most to your clients or company? What is most effective for you?