There I sat, feverishly scribbling down notes in my Principles of Public Relations class, when I realized it.
To be completely honest, I was never excited about public relations. Advertising has always been my passion; my tunnel-vision. My obsession that causes me to spend countless hours straining my eyes on Adobe Illustrator. My elite group of enthusiasts who ooze creativity and discuss things like typography in everyday conversation. Public relations was just something I picked up on the side so that I could graduate with a double major. It was something to look good on paper (see? this is me being transparent!).
Yet there I was on that second day of class, when I realized how correlated advertising and public relations are, and how much I am looking forward to being a part of both industries.
The subject matter of today’s class did not even sound appealing. History of Public Relations? Wake me up when it’s over. I’ve never been a history buff, and anything before the 1950s makes my eyes droop. Yes, I should learn history so that it doesn’t repeat itself…But what can I say? I’m a futuristic kind of gal. Not to mention, the class takes place during my normal lunch hour and it’s hard to hear through my embarrassingly audible stomach grumbles. However, I put my pre notions of boredom aside, and listened to what Professor Kelli Matthews had to say. It turns out that her lecture gave me an important insight into why I am double majoring in advertising and public relations.
Her lecture focused on previous press agents who changed the industry, and shifted public relations into what it is today. The press agent that intrigued me the most was Arthur Page. Arthur Page was the vice president at AT&T and he insisted that public relations should be an integral aspect of the corporation and serve as a management function.
One of my main takeaways from the lecture was Arthur Page’s Seven Proven Principles that Guide Our Actions and Behavior. Although they seem like common-sense practices, many times I am so consumed with industry trends that I forget to go back to the basics. I decided to use these concepts, and add my own insights as well. These seven principles made me realize that simple ideas are extremely significant in both public relations AND advertising.
1. TELL THE TRUTH
Like I said – it’s so obvious. People appreciate honesty. Ask anyone what they value most in another person, and most times people will respond by saying “honesty”. Take this concept, integrate it into business practices and problems can easily be avoided. Granted, people make mistakes. Yet, most will feel more inclined to forgive impropriety if one is upfront about their mishaps, and thus lead to brand loyalty.
2. PROVE IT WITH ACTION
As we all know, actions speak louder than words. As Arthur Page suggests, “Public perception of an organization is determined 90 percent by what it does and 10 percent by what it says”. Companies that prove their honesty are more likely to achieve brand loyalty. When customers are a priority, they will respond positively.
An example of this is seen in Chris Malone’s article “Why Tylenol Got a Pass and BP Didn’t”. According to Malone’s research, “Almost simultaneously, Tylenol and BP…faced bruising public crises. Yet in July, at the depth of both calamities, a nationally representative study of more than a thousand U.S. consumers found the Tylenol brand largely unharmed while BP was widely distrusted.” The reason for this? Tylenol went above and beyond and demonstrated their true brand values when “it voluntarily closed its plant in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, although the plant’s products generate $650 million in yearly sales.” Actions like this show consumers that the company truly does have consumer’s best interest at heart, and therefore builds relationships that can withstand crisis.
3. LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER
Everyone likes being heard. If you do not listen to the public, why should they listen to you?
Always remember the importance of the public part of public relations.
4. MANAGE FOR TOMORROW
Companies cannot solely focus on the present, but must also think towards the future. Anticipation is key if a company wants to receive positive results. If unanticipated crisis supervenes, it could be too late to fix it. Always be thinking about tomorrow.
Come on, sing it with me now!
5. CONDUCT PUBLIC RELATIONS AS IF THE WHOLE COMPANY DEPENDS ON IT
This was one of the ideas that shifted public relations into a professionalized practice. Utilize public relations as an integral part of the company. “No corporate strategy should be implemented without considering its impact on the public”.
6. REALIZE A COMPANY’S TRUE CHARACTER IS EXPRESSED BY ITS PEOPLE
People are what matter. A company is only as strong as those who thrive within it. It is a company’s responsibility to hold true to their values, and only hire those who fulfill their ideology.
Once I was in a job interview, and it came to the inevitable part where the interviewer asked if I had any questions. I asked what the company values were – a question that I ask at every place that I interview at in order to make sure that it fits with my own personal values. The interviewer responded by saying “well, I’m sure you could read about it somewhere on our website”. Well, little did she know that I did extensive research on this company’s website prior to my interview. I was unable to find any information on their website pertaining to the company values. How will this company find employees that integrate their policies, when their company values are not accessible? Finding employees that hold true to company ethics is important, but equally important is the transparency of company values and as previously mentioned, carrying out these values.
7. REMAIN CALM, PATIENT, AND GOOD-HUMORED.
“Cool heads communicate best”
Personality is important. Public relations and advertising are both about building relationships with clients – everyone is human, and likes to be treated as one. People connect with others who are interesting and intriguing. Don’t be afraid to show your true self (in a professional manner, of course – no keg stands allowed in conference meetings).
Arthur Page’s ideas are simple. However, sometimes we get so caught up in complexity that we forget the basics. It’s important to return to these ideas and stay on track.
Similarly, I was so caught up in the advertising world, that I neglected the importance of public relations. On occasion, I even thought public relations was contradictory to my advertising ambitions. This all changed after I read a blog post by Freddy Nager that eloquently (and hilariously) describes why the two industries must begin to use each other’s benefits for a more advantageous campaign. Advertising and public relations “complement each others’ strengths and mitigate weaknesses, with the publicity providing the credibility while the advertising creates the buzz”. Advertising and public relations are enhanced when in cooperation.
Clearly, it has been a propitious soul-searching day for me. Page’s principles reminded me that the goals of public relations are identical to the goals of advertising. Instead of fighting each other, they should thrive together for mutual benefits. I finally recognized that my double major is more than just words put on paper, but a path that will lead me to success in the industry. Public relations and advertising can coexist, just like two peas in a pod.