One of the biggest challenges of working in PR is explaining to your parents exactly what it is you do and, in my case, why.
The usual definitions fall short, and PR people themselves can rarely agree. Get ten of us in a room and ask what we do, and you’ll get 20 different answers. Ask non-PR people the same thing and they’ll probably roll their eyes, mutter something about ‘spin’ or just leave the room.
So after 20+ years of ineffectual explanations, it was a little surprising to stumble upon a description (see title) that not only seems to explain the ‘what’ part, but add a little insight into ‘why’ as well.
As a recent participant at an economic conference in Dubai that discussed the 10 biggest challenges facing the world in the coming months, I was asked repeatedly what could be done ‘from a PR perspective’ to address serious, complicated issues. The world, it seems, increasingly covets information and new thinking, and in an age of extreme uncertainty, needs it faster and more accurately than ever before. And PR people are seen – rightly, I think – as knowing how to give the public what it needs.
Now, I’m not suggesting the solution to issues like deepening income inequality, increasing water stress or a general lack of leadership is simply ‘better PR’ (we do have views on that last one, though). However, I do think our expertise in creating and sharing content (news, information, entertainment, advocacy, etc.) that the public can’t (or shouldn’t) live without is an important part of the equation. And not a bad way of thinking about what we do and why we do it.
Our business, like virtually every other line of work today, is undergoing profound changes. But while much of our daily output bears scant resemblance to PR of the 90’s (blast-faxing a press release is sort of like jousting or some other Renaissance festival demonstration), our purpose seems more relevant than ever before.
I’m not a huge fan of the word ‘content’ – the kind of term that makes regular people sigh – but it’s important to embrace the breadth of what it implies. The public’s appetite for ideas and context is insatiable, and we’ll need to work across every channel and provide them in every format possible to help meet it.
I’ll let you know what my parents think.