Sure-Fire Recipe For A Successful Public Relations Career

by Robert A. Kelly

Without a solid, well-designed foundation, few buildings successfully withstand the ravages of time and weather. And so it is with public relations, ever-dependent upon how well its practitioners understand the discipline.

Yet, some public relations people manage to go through their entire career without a firm grasp of what public relations is all about. Their response to crises, or to requests for well thought-out solutions to public relations problems, reveals a serious lack of understanding. They confuse the basic function of public relations with any number of tactical parts that make up the whole, such as publicity, crisis management or employee relations. Understandably, they feel unsure in approaching public relations problems, then uncertain about what counsel to give their clients. Many, relying on career-long misconceptions about public relations, forge ahead anyway advising the client ineffectively sometimes with damaging, if not dangerous counsel.

If you are new to the business, grasp early-on The Rosetta Stone of public relations, i.e., a guide to understanding the discipline and its core strength. Namely, people act on their perception of the facts; those perceptions lead to certain behaviors; and something can be done about those perceptions and behaviors that lead to achieving an organization's objectives.

The fact is that NO organization business, non-profit or public sector can succeed today unless the behaviors of its most important audiences are in-sync with the organization's objectives. Which is why, when public relations goes on to successfully create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching, persuading and moving-to-action those people whose behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

By all means discuss public relations' strategic role in any organization with professionals whom you respect. But do it early, do it seriously, and do it now so that you create that solid foundation of understanding about this business that will help you make a meaningful contribution to the field of public relations for many years to come.

Once that foundation of understanding is firmly set, an action pathway begins to appear:

A bonus: you are using a near-perfect public relations performance measurement. I mean how can you measure the results of an activity more accurately than when you clearly achieve the goal you set at the beginning of that activity? You can't. It's pure success

So, if you are a newcomer to the business, can you expect to avoid the pitfalls listed above? Yes, and here's why:

But, on the way you must do everything necessary to reach your target audiences, and to nurture the relationships between those audiences and the employer/client by burnishing the reputation of the organization, its products or services. You'll do your best to persuade those audiences to do what the client/employer wishes them to do. And, while seeking public understanding and acceptance of your client/employer, you'll insure that your joint activities not only comply with the law, but clearly serve the public interest. Then, you pull-out all tactical stops to actually move those individuals to action. Your client will be pleased that you have brought matters to this point.

When that client measures your real effectiveness, I suggest that he or she will be fully satisfied with those public relations results only when your "reach, persuade and move-to-desired action" efforts produce a visible, and desired, modification in the behaviors of those people your client/employer wishes to influence. In my view, this is the central, strategic function of public relations the basic context in which you must pursue that successful public relations career and a lesson best learned at the beginning of your career.

About the Author

Bob Kelly, public relations counselor, was director of public relations for Pepsi-Cola Co.; AGM-Public Relations, Texaco Inc.; VP-Public Relations, Olin Corp.; VP-Public Relations, Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Co.; director of communications, U.S. Department of the Interior, and deputy assistant press secretary, The White House., Website:

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