Public Relations: Promises Made…Promises Kept

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A Guest Post by Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow, PRSA

I’m starting off the new year bubbling with enthusiasm and eager anticipation of a great 12 months ahead.

Last year was “interesting,” with lots of challenges for public relations professionals as well as lots of opportunities to demonstrate our value to our clients or employers.

  • The political campaign circus proved once again that simply throwing wads of advertising money against the wall in the hopes that some of our messaging will stick in the minds of our target audiences doesn’t work…period.
  • The ongoing BP trainwreck (I have to believe the folks associated with the Exxon-Valdez fiasco sent huge baskets of fruit to the BP folks over the holidays) shows…once again…the absolute value of keeping stakeholders…including victims of your blunder…at the forefront in all your communication planning.
  • Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the undisputable fact that, as poet Robert Burns said so well, “The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.”

The designation “public relations profession” carries with it serious responsibility implications.

  • The responsibility to guide your client or employer along the path of open and honest communication.
  • The responsibility, much like the medical profession, to advise your client or employer to “do no harm” in the course of doing business.
  • The responsibility to not just know but to adhere to the ethical codes that guide our profession.

Public relations icon Arthur L. Page had this to say regarding the public relations professional and the practice of public relations: Conduct public relations as if the whole company depends on it. Corporate relations is a management function. No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public. The public relations professional is a policymaker capable of handling a wide range of corporate communications activities.”

Now’s the time to re-visit your belief in your chosen life’s work. Take a moment to read the words of Page, Edward L. Bernays, Ivy Lee, and others. Find those statements that, to you, are the hallmarks of a true public relations professional.

Make a promise that you will abide by those words…and keep it.

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He also is Visiting Lecturer, Organizational and Professional Communication (Graduate), at Regis College in Weston, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk is a Member of PRSA’s national Board of Directors and has held leadership positions with PRSA Educators Academy and PRSA Northeast District as well as with the Boston and Hawaii PRSA chapters.

3 Responses to " Public Relations: Promises Made…Promises Kept "

  1. I find this message to be very inspiring. In the world of PR there is always something or someone to represent. As a beginner in Public Relations, it is hard to start off thinking of what I would like to represent. From what I read, there’s so many broad topics; from politics to natural disasters. I have learned that as I may be a PR professional one day, that I would have a lot of responsibility in what ever it is I choose to stand beside. It’s very exciting for me to know that I could be a PR representative for anything that I desire.

  2. Username* says:

    I think that you are correct with having to adhere to the ethical codes that guide our profession.

  3. Thanks for your feedback, Jamie and “Username,” and my apologies for the delay in responding. I feel very strongly about ethics and its application in public relations as well as in any business endeavor. And I find, even after a “few” years in the profession, that I still get excited about the opportunities that arise to use my public relations training and skills to advise and assist others in dealing with issues impacting their business or organization. Jamie…there are LOTS of opportunities awaiting you. Take the time to explore your interests and your own personal skills and abilities, and take the plunge! And let me know what you decide!!

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