It’s how you tell ‘em!

About six months ago I met a senior business leader. “What do you do?” she asked, politely. “I’m a PR consultant,” I said… and watched as her eyes glazed over.

Three weeks ago I met her again. “Ah yes – I remember you,” she said. “You do something with marketing, don’t you?”

This time I was ready for her.

“I help organisations build and protect their reputations,” I told her.

“I help them create meaningful, two-way relationships with the people who can help them grow and succeed. Or kill them stone dead.”

This time her reaction was completely different.

“Oh, wow,” she said, glancing conspiratorially around the room. “I wish you’d told me that when we first met. Come with me – we need to talk.”

Now, one brief and a relatively inexpensive piece of perception research later, she’s on our list of retainer clients.

If it’s got anything to do with engaging with people it’s what I do. If not, it’s something else.

So why has the term public relations come to be synonymous with publicity stunts and megaphone marketing? Degraded to the point where it’s classed as just “something to do with marketing” by the nation’s business leaders and business school graduates the world over.

Folk better qualified than I have thrashed this one out for decades. I remember Burson-Marsteller placing the strapline ‘the management of reputation’ on the signage outside its office in Bloomsbury Square when I worked in London in the early nineties.

The question was in my mind as I read an excellent piece posted on LinkedIn by Claudia Macdonald recently.

If it’s got anything to do with engaging with people, listening to what they have to say and then responding in a way that works for all concerned, it’s what I do.

If not, it’s something else.

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