The first time I told my boss at my summer job that I was studying public relations he hastily responded by saying, “So you’ll be graduating with a B.A. in BS?” There are two specific grievances I have with this statement. First, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts. Second, there is a common misconception that a public relations professional’s job is easy because it only requires twisting the truth. Most of the stereotypes associated with our profession are negative. Therefore, anytime I tell someone who isn’t familiar with the principles and practices of PR that I’m studying it, I get the requisite “Oh, really?”.
The most ironic part about being a PR professional in a world that doesn’t understand PR is that the profession of PR has the worst PR. Of course, everyone who studies and works in PR knows the truth about the profession, but conveying the logistics behind our work is difficult to show the public. Everything that an organization does is a form of communication, and all communication contributes something to the brand and culture of that organization. Consequently, every move that a company makes must be well thought out not only from a financial and legal standpoint, but also from a communications standpoint.
The issue with the perception of PR is that people view communication as effortless, and therefore don’t perceive a need for PR except in situations that call for manipulation. Whether it is a corporation, a non-profit organization, or a politician, everyone needs a point communications person. When there aren’t communications people at a senior level, chaos ensues. Without someone present who cares an organization’s image, ethical dilemmas arise. So next time anyone out there questions PR or why you study it, just remember that they may need a communications lesson.