If you were asked to detail the formulaic process of a public relations professional, what would you answer? My university’s “Introduction to Public Relations” course would suggest you follow “R.A.C.E.”:
Research: Conduct a situation analysis by investigating a client’s market, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Action: Brainstorm strategic implications and recommendations to formulate a client-specific program.
Communication: Develop and launch a campaign after significant client collaboration.
Evaluation: Take a step back and gauge the success of the campaign.
This answer emerged on countless exams—and while it grasps the foundation of PR work, I’ve learned it only scratches the surface.
Shouldn’t we be brainstorming as we research, constantly elevating what we feel to be the best route of action? Shouldn’t we evaluate through every milestone of a launched campaign, not just at the end?
Developing communication strategy isn’t an experiment with exact quantities and rigid form; it should feel organic.
The acronym needs to be rearranged. And rearranged again.
Sections should occur simultaneously, some before others, some lengthened, some shortened. Outside of R.A.C.E, I’ve learned that this isn’t a one-size-fits all business, and the best PR practitioner modifies this acronym specifically to oblige a client’s needs.
Foster unique relationships
This field is anything but formulaic. Communication isn’t just processes, checklists and routine. These entities may be at the core of what makes a firm organized and productive, but the root of each interaction lies within personal connection.
Whether it’s a classic Adam-Yosim-style pitch uniquely catered to a reporter’s tone and personality, or a long dinner on-site after a hard day, people are the driving force behind this business. Outside of the R.A.C.E, I’ve learned to foster unique relationships with every human you work with. From a major client to a friendly canal-mechanic, no connection is too small to contribute immensely to the success of a campaign.
Maybe the most challenging feature of public relations is that despite the countless hours put into meetings, details put into events, and strategy put into action, the key is organic perception.
At the end of the day, you want your target audience’s view of your campaign and its view of your brand to exist in synonymy. This is the business of earned media, right? Nothing garners mass quantities of positive reaction more than a consumer trusting a message is candid and genuine. A PR professional should continually align the campaign with the unique tone and personality of a company; nothing should feel forced. Outside of the R.A.C.E, I’ve learned, publics are always receptive to authenticity.
Know the Rules to Break Them
All this isn’t to say the R.A.C.E. process my professors are teaching me doesn’t matter. The classes I’m taking, and the professors I’m interacting with, are teaching me the R.A.C.E. because it is necessary to understand the foundations of this work. Without a solid core, how would I assess the value of fostering relationships and organic perception?
This foundation is giving me the solid footing I need to know when and how to follow the process, and when to mix it up. Without this footing, I would not be able to aptly grow as a communicator.