In this business, and probably in most businesses, we do a lot of hand wringing. As marketers or PR professionals we aren’t producing a tangible product. It’s not something you can hold or even necessarily see. So as a result, we have a difficult time boiling what we do down to one of those 30-second elevator speeches. The problem is in finding terminology that is meaningful to both those of us in the industry, as well as those outside.
For instance, there has been a lot of talk lately about how we define public relations. For many, the term conjures up images of publicity machines and schmoozing and spin. And while PRSA is trying to redefine it, my friend Gini Dietrich is calling them out, and the PRSA is responding. And other friends, like Krista Giuffi, are trying to work out what it means to them in their particular situations.
The same arguments and discussions are happening in the marketing and social media realms, and they are discussions that overlap. None of these disciplines resides in a vacuum, anymore. Actually, they never really did, but we put them there.
But the fact of the matter is, at the end of the day, we are all doing the same thing: communicating.
My website might say that I’m a social media and marketing consultant, but that really doesn’t define me. I’m a communications professional. My job is to help you communicate your message better.
Take a look at the most basic of communications models; you know, the one you learned in that Speech 101 class you took in college:
Clearly, this is communications in its most basic form, and you could throw in things like “context” and “behavioral change”, but for the most part, this is what goes on when we seek to communicate each day. And of course there are the subtleties of semiotics, with things that we refer to as the “sign”, the “signifier”, and the “signified”, and you’ve got yourself an interesting discussion. Something on which you could write a paper or thesis. (Oh, wait…been there done that. Don’t tempt me into getting all geeky on you about communications theory and semiotics!)
In the end, no matter how we define ourselves, the fact is, others don’t care. The general public doesn’t care. Our customers don’t care. It’s the same with those silos we’ve constructed internally that we are now working feverishly (or should be) to tear down. When I interact with your business, I don’t really care if I have the “right” person in the “right” department. I just want satisfaction. If I have a problem, just fix it, even if it isn’t in your job description.
What our customers and clients want is clear communication. And when you look at the above model, the most important change in terms of social media is that “feedback” arrow at the bottom. Now, the feedback is more direct, more rapid, and can come from multiple places at one time. At it’s most basic level, every bit of communication has a sender and a receiver (whether it is our intended receiver, or not). There is a message, and a channel(s), or medium, through which it travels. Along the way, there is noise…clutter…that impacts how it is received on the other end. And of course there is feedback. Even a lack of feedback, i.e. silence, is a form of feedback.
Whether you are banging drums or sending up smoke signals, or using the latest in digital technology, the basics are the same. Your job, and my job, is to make sure that your intended message gets to your intended audience, with the desired result. Seems simple, eh? But the fact is, we’ve complicated the process, and there are so many factors to consider.
In the end, no one cares if you are a marketer, an advertiser, or a PR professional. What you really are is a communicator, and every one who works in your business is a communicator as well, and their ability to communicate, or not, will impact how others view you.
To quote Dwight D. Eisenhower again, from my blog post on presidential tweets:
An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows
Keep it simple. Don’t try to dazzle them with big words. They can see through that. Whatever your role, whatever your job description, just communicate.
And remember that communication is a two-way process. Listen to the feedback. Early and often.We seem to forget that one a lot.
Do you see yourself as a communications professional? Can you forget about your marketing or PR pedigree for awhile and take it to street level? How are you trying to be a better communicator?
- We’re Defining PR Again (soulati.com)
- We Cannot Define PR (soulati.com)
- Eight Practices for Developing a PR Hybrid Professional (spinsucks.com)
- Marking the 100th anniversary of the PR profession’s identity crisis (businessesgrow.com)
- Why Can’t We Define Public Relations? (socialfish.org)