Defining and unbinding PR in 2015

PR in 2015 - image courtesy of Blue Rock marketing
PR: Image courtesy of Blue Rock marketing

The past couple of years have been quite a blur for me and for my career. Since joining Charlotte Center City Partners as Director of Communications, I have held on tight for an amazing roller coaster ride of learning, experiencing and understanding the role of PR and strategic communications in a variety of contexts. In late 2013, I was honored to receive the PRSA Charlotte “Young Professional of the Year” award, and in May 2014, I graduated from the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte with my Master of Arts degree in Communication. My experience in graduate school opened my eyes to a completely new way of thinking critically – about communications, about work, and about life. Below is an excerpt of an interview where I talked about how the program was meaningful to me and how it is meaningful to the Charlotte community.  

As I approach a decade of experience in the world of PR, I can’t help but notice how very different this profession is depending on the context of the job, the industry, and the advancements in communications technology. It goes without saying that digital media tools continue to change HOW our industry does its work, but it does not change WHAT we do or WHY we do it.  In the agency world, we help our clients reach their business goals by reaching their clients. In the nonprofit world, we help achieve the mission of our organizations by telling compelling stories (and often by acting as a triage for never ending requests!). In the corporate world, we do the above, plus measure and report often. In all cases, we must continue to be strong writers and storytellers, using the most appropriate tools and techniques available.

PRSA young professional of the year award Lelia 2013
Honored to accept the 2013 PRSA Charlotte young professional award, alongside my husband.

In the last few years, I have begun to consider myself a communications professional rather than solely a PR pro. The national industry organization for PR pros, PRSA, adopted the following definition of PR in 2012:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

While I completely agree with this definition of PR, specifically in that PR is a process, most people continue to associate PR with media relations, or simply writing press releases. In my day-to-day experience, writing press releases takes about 3% of my time. Thinking about what I do as communications strategy rather than PR helps me feel less bound by any definitions – old or new. It also helps “unbind” any pre-set assumptions that colleagues have when they come to me with a communications need. For example, perhaps a colleague wants to “promote” an upcoming event, and he or she assumes that traditional media relations is the way to go. But, after thinking through some questions, perhaps we determine that a promoted social media campaign and direct email might better reach the target audience. Or, perhaps a video is the way to go. That “a-ha” moment, when I can help someone crystalize their goals and figure out the best strategy to meet those goals has become my favorite part of this career I love.

Lelia on morning news WCCB 2014
On a morning news show in Charlotte in 2014.

Of course, being on TV is always fun, too! I have so many learnings to share that I have accumulated over the last several years, and my hope is that this blog can become a platform in which to share them. It’s a great way for me to look back and make sense of my own experiences, and my hope is that it will help other communications and PR professionals do the same. Communication is a process, after all.

Now, I want to know: What is your job title? Does it reflect your day-to-day work?

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