We have to give a huge shout-out to W.T. McKibben of The Great Lakes Group and Joel Postman of Eastwick Communications for their recent articles answering the question, “What is a PR person?” They were articulate and straightforward in their rejection of “spin doctors” and “press release mills” as definitions. Their honest approach to this topic was refreshing and energizing.
We always tell our clients, “We are not a press release factory. We do not take news that you have and broker it to the media.” We pride ourselves on our ability to help craft and articulate our clients’ messages in a way that is meaningful and helps them achieve their business goals. And it’s nice to know other “PR people” out there feel the same.
This is one of my favorite parts of the McKibben piece:
“In every city there are a few with ‘public relations’ on their shingle proudly calling themselves ‘spin doctors.’ While I understand the naiveté of many business people who don’t know any better, I am amazed that these tactics continue to work. We all know that while it may have its initial successes, the media gets really pissed when they discover they have been misled. As one of my clients once put it, “No matter how hard you rub it, you can’t shine shit.”
Postman goes even further in describing what “PR people” are to him:
“For many, the phrase ‘Trusted Communications Advisor’ is a cliché, a throwaway descriptor included in the summary of many communications resumes. But these people do exist, and achieving trusted advisor status is the ultimate achievement for any communications professional.”
The best PR people are advisors. An advisor is someone who has a thoughtful and interesting perspective on an issue at hand. An advisor has inside knowledge or relevant experience. Communications advisors are valuable members of the corporate team.
So I’ll put this to the community, to you – is there an alternative to the term “PR person?” We spend our days coining meaningful ideas and relevant points of view for our clients. We should be able to come up with something better than that to describe the real role we play in business and to distinguish us from the spin doctors, press release mills and publicists that currently label us. Three cheers for whoever has a solution.