This post is part of The Plank Center’s Legacies from Legends in PR Series that was begun in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America in 2007.
Consultant in public and community relations with more than 50 years of experience. Previously, director of public relations for Sive/Young & Rubicam; vice president of public relations at The Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati; community relations consultant in the Dayton desegregation program; director of community relations of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission; and public relations director for Great Rivers Girl Scout Council. Past president of PRSA and recipient of the Paul Lund Award.
Throughout my career I’ve felt the most fun and fulfilling part of being a public relations practitioner is acting as the link between a problem and a solution. Because we are in the unique and advantageous position of being in communication with all departments and aspects of an organization, we know when a problem occurs–and where to find the solution. Not only does that help the organization, it proves the value of public relations.
Whether we’re the in-house counsel or an outside consultant, to do a good job in public relations, we must understand not only WHAT the organization is all about, but WHO does what, WHEN it gets done, WHERE it is done and WHY (Sound familiar?). We need to be among the most knowledgeable employees in the organization–and it pays.
I remember my first few weeks on a new job in a hospital–my first experience in healthcare. I made appointments to meet with and interview every department head. It took a long time, but I needed to know how things worked, how people worked together and who did what. It paid off almost immediately.
As I was interviewing one manager, he kept telling me his frustration at not being able to achieve his goals and what was holding him back. I paged through my notes, sure I had heard something that would help. Within a few minutes, I was able to share with him some relevant information I had gleaned in another department a few days earlier. He and the other department head met shortly thereafter and worked out a solution that was advantageous to everyone. Word spread quickly that the source of their solution was in the public relations department!
With the nature of personal communication changing daily and mass communication taking on a new meaning with every new invention, some people are wringing their hands and bemoaning the fact that public relations is so different now. Perhaps the way in which we communicate electronically is changing, but human contact is still a basic need. People still make up their minds about how they’ll vote, what they’ll buy and where they’ll spend their free time by talking to other people. We can help provide those linkages.
The same kind of linking can go a long way when we get involved in volunteer activities or represent our organizations in the community. The more we know, the more we can help solve problems and link resources to each other. In addition to making us feel good, it’s a wonderful way to get to know interesting people, to widen our networks and to demonstrate that public relations is a lot more than publicity!