PR Legend: Isobel Parke


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.Park-Photo

Serves as senior counsel at Jackson, Jackson & Wagner. Born in England. Graduated from the Winsor School in Boston, Mass., and from Oxford University. Joined Jackson Jackson & Wagner in 1964. PRSA national secretary and board liaison for PRSSA. Served on the ACEJMC board for six years and on the 1999 and 2006 Commission for Public Relations Education. Honored with PRSA’s David Ferguson Award for services to public relations education (2002).

You, my fellow professionals, you are starting your career with a sound knowledge base and possess technical communications skills far surpassing mine.

These are my thoughts for your consideration and, in some cases, action:

Hold to the belief that public relations is an honorable profession essential to the democratic process. Ground yourself in the Code of Ethics, develop counseling skills and keep in touch with your professors about behavioral research you can use.

Public relations is a behavioral science; success is measured on how well our strategy achieves its goals: to change, to maintain, to stop or to prevent certain actions.

Our core mission is to build mutually satisfying relationships that create a bank of trust in both good and bad times. Know the paradigm for measuring trust.

Public relations is both an expanding universe and a hybrid discipline. Thinking about a master’s degree in communication or business? Consider a minor in organizational development, social psychology or modern anthropology.

You are expert in using the current technical communication tools. But iPhones are just tools; they will change. The heart of the profession is embedding your action plan in sound communication theory.

The key to the leadership group is your ability to demonstrate a problem-solving approach helpful to managers in legal, financial, personnel, planning or production. But first listen to learn how they see their problems.

Think carefully about the torrent of social media: Does it build personal relationships that equal the power of getting to know an individual over a cup of coffee? Maybe you can triple task, but solving problems strategically requires focused thought. My subconscious works well overnight when the chatter has subsided.

The symbols of cultural history and the cadences of poetry are the keys to touching the human heart. These are the emotional triggers that influence the decisions we make.

Know what’s going on in our global village. Read The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist or listen to NPR. No issue is an island: Solving it requires putting it in a larger environment of past, present and future.

Find a way to talk quietly to those holding different views within or without your organization. When they know you understand their values, you may be surprised to find some common ground.

It is commonplace to attribute institutional woes to “lack of communication.” Stakeholders may retort,” Your actions speak so loudly we cannot hear a word you’re saying.”

I asked Senator George Mitchell–one of my heroes–how he managed to help the Sinn Fein and the Northern Irish leaders find common ground for peacemaking after centuries of bitter, bloody hostility. He said, “I did a lot of listening.” We know a great deal about getting out our message. How much do we understand about the art and the power of listening?

Join PRSA; it’s a ready-made network. With your first paycheck start giving back by sending $25 to the PRSSA scholarship fund, c/o of the PRSA Foundation.

Parke Sig


Published: 2007