Any public relations professional loathes the label “spin doctor” — the term in itself sounds deceitful, ruthless, and absent of truth. Luckily, PR professionals are quickly shedding that spiteful term as the profession itself grows. This growth has put more focus on ethics within the field, as well as many other key aspects. This job is no longer about simply putting the company’s best face forward without thought to consequences. It’s about cultivating relationships. It’s about trust. It’s about creating consumer confidence. It’s about sharing knowledge for the benefit of the greater good. It’s about two-way communication.
I believe the fundamental component of responsible public relations is the establishment of mutually-beneficial relationships. A responsible PR practitioner establishes and maintains positive relationships with many different groups — with management, with different publics, with stakeholders, and with consumers. The key to establishing mutually-beneficial, positive relationships is to solicit feedback and use this feedback to strengthen the relationship in the future. PR professionals have a commitment to soliciting and using feedback for two key groups:
– For their organization/corporation: Establishing an effective method of measuring feedback and response is key to improving future organizational actions and behaviors. Research is fundamental to improving an organization’s brand and allowing the organization to respond effectively to their target markets and publics.
– For their audience: Utilizing research results in future strategic communication plans and actions allows for an organization/PR practitioner to better cater to an audience’s wants, needs, and desires. Have you ever had a mutually-beneficial relationship with anyone — either another individual or an organization — in which you’ve never exchanged your feelings or thoughts? It’s nearly impossible to have an effective relationship without establishing open and honest communication lines. PR professionals have a commitment to listen to their audiences, and this is most often accomplished through measured feedback.
Today’s technologically-based society allows for more interactive communication than ever before. It’s easier to maintain feedback, both formal and informal, and to communicate with target publics. PR professionals must take the time to talk with their audience and use these conversations in their future plans. As transparency increases in future years (and it undoubtedly will), solidly established, positive relationships will become even more important than they are today. You cannot “spin” something a certain way in today’s society without someone somewhere catching on and posting the truth online for all to see.
It’s time to pull out our interpersonal communication skills, my fellow public relations professionals. The future of the field depends on it.