I tell this to my new PR students. As we define public relations, we agree on the premise that PR works to accomplish one of three responses: to create attitudes, to reinforce attitudes, and to change attitudes. And the dating analogy works well.
Let’s begin with online dating. Two people create profiles– what PR practitioners call backgrounders–to describe their history and current personal status. When one spots a potential match they contact the other, usually with a clever, enticing online note–in effect, a pitch letter. If the “pitch” works, a first meeting will take place, often at a mutually agreeable venue. One of the first get-togethers will involve event planning for which schedules are coordinated, cars are washed, clothing is selected, and hair is cut so the presentation (date) goes exceptionally well. As the relationship takes root, networking begins, first with friends and then with family. All of these actions are designed to create attitudes among various publics.
The following weeks and months contain acts of caring and kindness, sharing of new experiences, and a calculated effort to compromise. This, much like PR, is done to reinforce attitudes.
Eventually a crisis may hit. Someone says or does something they shouldn’t have said or done, and now an all-out effort is made to change attitudes. This usually again includes flowers and a significant number of “I’m sorrys.” Various PR tools must be employed if there’s any chance of success. But then the good behaviors must be sustained because, as I tell my students, good PR is more that clever words or window dressing. Maintaining positive acceptance of your audience must always be supported by consistent performance.
So as Valentine’s Day approaches this week, keep this in mind: “When a date brings flowers, that’s good PR. When flowers are given to the date’s mother, that’s expert PR!” Lesson learned. Your thoughts?