Explaining PR to my Dad…
…Three years ago:
My Dad, bless him, is always asking me exactly what PR is. I thought I had a pretty clear definition down pat but in the last year this description has changed. The explanation I gave three years ago, with a little over six months under my belt working in PR, is very different to what I do today. To put a label on it, I’ve moved from media relations to PR Communications.
The past two agencies I’ve worked with have been consumer media relations focused. So my explanation was, “Dad, you know when you read a lifestyle article and the journalist mentions they visited a fabulous restaurant? Well, the reason they decided to go to that specific restaurant was probably due to the venue’s PR people pitching it into that magazine/tv program/newspaper/radio.”
I continue, “It’s getting coverage in the media without paying the media outlet for including the product/venue/company/person. When you pay for space, it’s advertising. When you package up your client as suitable and interesting for a particular mag/paper/tv program/ radio show/website, then you talk to the right journalists about it, if they like it/like what you’ve pitched them, they may include it in a story.
“That is PR. It’s the skill of the PR person finding the stories, writing, pitching, creating good relationships with journalists and knowing what they want; this gets our clients in the media. We can’t guarantee where our clients will appear or precisely what will appear. But if we are good at our jobs, we can proactively and reactively maximise the best opportunities for our clients. We have a pretty good idea of what we can achieve.”
“Right, ok,” says Dad. I love that he pretends to know exactly what I’m talking about.
From time to tim, Dad still asks me what I do, bless him. But now my explanations include a much broader scope of communications, media relations only being a segment of what we ‘do’ for our clients. As well as corporate relations, internal communications, marcomms, investor relations, community engagement, and media relations (to list but a few of the ‘R’ disciplines), I find myself emphatically explaining the value of social web communications.
I should disclose that my father is a General Practitioner with his own practice who only moved from the old card system to online two years ago, and it’s at this point that I fear his head has exploded with my over-enthused response.
But two months ago he called me, “Kimba, can you explain Twitter to me again please? You know, explain how you connect with people you want to talk to?”.
I was strolling through the Queen Victoria Markets doing my grocery shopping but it felt as though the skies (or rather, rooftop) opened and a blast of sunshine beamed down on me (and him!). He even used the word “connect”. So he was registering all the information I had been telling him and he did see the value of online social networks.
The point is, if my Dad can see the value in social media for facilitating and connecting with a community, why can’t more CEOs and decision-makers also make space for this valuable tool? What do we have to do for them to overcome their fear of engaging with the people their companies so often rely upon?