public relations

Why is it so Hard to Define Public Relations?

By Public Relations

PR people themselves have a tough time defining their own industry for ages. There are blurry boundaries between PR, marketing, advertising, and other disciplines. No one knew where to fit social media when it exploded on the scene fifteen or more years ago, and now it fits under the PR umbrella in some ways, as well.

It’s not that complicated, if you think of PR as the deliberate management of shared information about a person, brand, corporate or nonprofit entity and the public. 

Tell your story (correctly, in a way that influences action) by hiring a PR firm, consultant, or employee. HOW it is done, is where all those other disciplines (media relations, social media, grassroots outreach, networking, etc.) come into play.

Stop it with the Spin Already

“Spin” is a word that makes ethical PR practitioners cringe. Spin is propaganda. It is the practice of pushing a biased interpretation to your audience, to influence outcomes. This is quite common in politics. If a prospective client were to ask us for this kind of service, we’d turn them down. It’s not what we do.

We work with people who have stories to tell about their business, what they offer, who does the work, and what audience they serve. We’re honored to help our clients tell these stories, to connect with the right people, to engage and build relationships, and to grow in their success. That’s good PR, and that’s what we do.

What Is Reputation Management, Anyway?

By Communications, Public Relations

Public relations firms have begun to adopt a descriptor that I think more accurately describes what some of us do; reputation management. The term originated with the internet and Marijean Jaggerssearch engine results and has been used by companies promising to rid your company of all those nasty negative posts and comments that damage your brand’s reputation. As used here, and by Jaggers Communications, it is the practice of applying smart communications to tell the story of your business in a way that, yes, affects search results when one goes looking for information about your brand, but also the longer-term effect of educating, changing perceptions and establishing who you are, what you do, and what you do well.

I refer to my firm as a reputation management firm. I find that it’s far easier a concept for people to understand than public relations ever was. I remember comparing notes with others in public relations for years on the question, “does your family understand what it is that you do?” Our families often didn’t!

I think that lack of understanding has dissipated somewhat. I think there is more of a general, global understanding of social media and its impact; of the need for companies to have a communications strategy in place, and to be sharing the news of their business frequently and consistently.

What do you think? Has reputation management replaced public relations in the communications business?

Why I Love to Teach: Reason Number 4,365

By Public Relations

Forgive me, I’m all verklempt. I just received the following Facebook message from a student I taught in St. Louis more than seven years ago:

Got a job interview with _______________ hospital this Wednesday; second interview. It is for a Sr. PR Specialist position. Anyway, wanted to tell you because I had to draw on everything you once taught me at college in my phone interview. So thanks!

Heart; melted.

The student was one of those great students a teacher never forgets; I’ve stayed in touch with a handful of them, and this one has always stood out. His note reminded me how much I loved teaching at the college level. I taught a course in public relations to communications majors at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Mo. I don’t teach college courses any more (although, may return to it one day). But every day I teach; here, on the blog, in client meetings, with colleagues I mentor and in workshops I deliver on behalf of organizations or under my own company umbrella.

I think a really strong education in communications and yes, even public relations is useful for every person in business for themselves. I will continue to teach in and out of classrooms, as long as I’m able — and hopefully now and again, someone will pop by to remind me why I love it so much.

Thanks “Nano,” you made this ol’ PR teacher’s night.



Five Simple Ways to Manage a Reputation

By Communications, Crisis Communications, Public Relations

How do you manage the reputation of your company? It’s difficult, and there are many moving parts. That’s why so many hire help from a firm or solo practitioner. Not a week goes by when I don’t hear about a business owner fretting over a bad Yelp review or an article damaging to their business or industry.

There are a few basic elements to managing a reputation, such as:

  1. Publishing content that tells the story of your organization in an authentic way
  2. Monitoring what’s being said and written online, to react to opportunities to respond
  3. Proactively pitch media with real news about your business
  4. Position the leaders of your organization as thought leaders and experts; offer them to media members as interview subjects or authors of whitepapers and editorial pieces
  5. Generate conversation among fans of the business

Of course, if a company’s reputation is bad because its product, service or customer relationships are bad, you may do all of the above and the company will still earn the reputation it deserves. Consider carefully your clients, PR and marketing people. And companies? Don’t expect miracles when you’re unwilling to improve the way you do business.

And now, a little Joan Jett and the Blackhearts . . .