PR Expanded / “PR: Make It Personal”


A Guest Post By Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA

I’ve had easily a half-dozen or more one-on-one conversations this summer with students – current and former – from Curry College, where I teach PR full-time in our undergraduate Communication Department, and Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communications program.

A couple were “talk ‘em off the ledge” chats where things just weren’t going right and the other party just needed some reassurance. Others were more “how’s it going?” or “what’s next?”

All were interesting in the level of personal commitment and pride that I sensed in every one of my friends. Even at their early stage in the game, they’re having a blast!

My feeling, as I poked and prodded for information, was that each of these folks was “in it to win it.” Granted the job longevity at most is a little over a year, but a year is a lifetime for a young professional eager to claim his or her place in the world of public relations.

I’ll also grant that these troops are, for the most part, unusual in that they went into full-time PR positions immediately following stellar internships. They “test-drove” the profession and found it personally rewarding for its challenges and opportunities to shine.

We’re not the only profession where you truly can commit yourself body and soul to your chosen line of work from the get-go. But I would argue that we’re one of a select few career fields where your actions, words and deeds can affect so many others’ lives or livelihoods. That’s a lot of “power.”

I’ve written before about the passion that I fully believe must be part and parcel of our approach to our work. I remain convinced, after more than 30 years as a practicing professional and now more than 10 as an educator, that you succeed in our business by making your mission on behalf of your client or employer personal.

This commitment shows clearly in everything you do…writing, speaking, thinking…everything. It is seen and recognized by those who you want to receive your message and accept it…and there’s where the challenge lies.

We don’t have licensing for public relations practitioners (there are pros and cons to the need…not going there today), so our professionalism is judged among the lay community by our delivery of results.

Some professional organizations (PRSA and IABC, to name two) have accreditation programs that assess the practitioner’s skills and knowledge and, if successfully undertaken, qualify him or her to display the credentials “APR” or “ABC.” The problem, from my perspective, is that the general public, including potential clients and/or employers, have no clue what it means. It remains my hope that, at some point in time, both of these organizations will figure out how to communicate the value of their respective “accredited” designations to the “outside world.”

And, complicating matters, this step of validating one’s capabilities is not mandatory. It falls on your shoulders as the PR professional to demonstrate your belief in the good that public relations can do. It’s your choice whether or not to pursue accreditation and proclaim to the world a personal commitment to excellence just as it is your choice to represent the profession with pride and dignity.

So, on several levels, the choice of public relations as one’s career path is very personal. Personal not only in pride of profession, but also in pride of accomplishment. Where do you stand?

Hazlett_KirkcKirk 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 former 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.