PR 101: A Reminder of Our Responsibilities

“We did all we could to be in the game, to tie it up, and didn’t. And it’s my fault.”

– Former Washington Redskins punter, Hunter Smith, in an interview with the Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog about his release from the franchise.

With those words describing a missed snap that ultimately cost him his job, Hunter Smith got me thinking about professional responsibility on (or should I say in) a different field — public relations. It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of PR work and focus on the tactics rather than our broader roles as counselors, partners, sources and colleagues. But it’s good for everyone, from Managing Director to Account Coordinator, to go back to the basics every once in awhile and think about our responsibilities as PR practitioners.

To do that, we must remind ourselves what PR is. As the PRSA defines it: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”  That’s a pretty broad definition, but it does illustrate that we have broad responsibilities as PR professionals. Putting the press releases, pitches and reports aside for a moment, I want to focus on three groups to whom I think we are and should be accountable when we come to work every day.

In my opinion, we cannot be successful if we let down even one of these groups.

Our Clients

PR is a field based upon relationships and trust. A successful business is built on successful relationships that must be nurtured over time. There is no relationship more important than the one we share with our clients. So how do we fulfill our responsibilities to them?  By ensuring that their goals are also ours. By pursuing every opportunity for them with the same vigor and effort that we pursued their business with on Day One. By focusing not just on the urgent work, but on the important work. By delivering and over-delivering on our commitments to them. By standing accountable when we don’t.

The Public

In the role of professional communicators, we are responsible for supporting the open marketplace of ideas, data and perspectives needed to create an informed public. We have a responsibility to them to deliver information that is accurate, honest and transparent. We must avoid serving as peddlers of misleading or dishonest information lest we become guilty of the accusations and terrible names some PR professionals have been labeled.

Our Colleagues

Just as a football player cannot win a game on his own, we cannot be successful PR professionals without the input, perspective and experience of our entire team. We all bring our own talents and strengths to the table and it is only when we work together and in support of one another that we are truly living up to our responsibilities as professionals.

Hunter Smith’s words should serve as impetus for everyone, particularly those of us who have dedicated our careers to practice public relations. We chose a highly demanding field by doing so; and professionals who practice with the utmost responsibility will always be the one winning the day.

Curious to know from other PR pros – to whom do you feel responsible?

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