I’m just telling a story

Public relations isn’t easily defined.

The name for the industry itself is a bit intimidating:

Public…which means people…lots of people…who need things…from me.

Relations…now I have to form relationships…with lots of people…who will need things…from me.

I attended the PRSSA 2013 National Conference in Philadelphia Oct. 25 – 29. Aside from climbing the “Rocky Steps” and visiting landmarks such as Independence Hall and Love Park, most of my time spent at the conference was in sessions learning about how to utilize my skill sets (or acquire new skills) to be the best PR practitioner I can be.

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I like the sound of that just as much as you do. What I actually learned, however, is that PR has gone through a complete metamorphosis within the last decade. “The press release is dead” is a phrase I read and hear often. I don’t believe that’s the case though.

From the various speakers I was fortunate enough to learn from, a common concern was that PR has shifted from an incredibly personal field where genuine relationships must be cultivated to ensure success to a seemingly virtual world of social networking to form short-term partnerships.

It could be argued that all relationships are now somewhat virtual. I can sift through my Facebook timeline and find out a friend from high school got married over the weekend in Fiji without having to speak to him/her. Congrats by the way.

My argument, however, is that the foundation and building blocks of public relations still exist. Ethical decision-making is key and fostering relationships with key publics will always be the goal. Another common theme I noticed at the conference is the idea of PR practitioners being the “storytellers” of the communication field.

We want to know your story and we want to share your story. First we may have to humanize your story and help you develop said story, but in the end it’s still a matter of us telling the story of you, your brand or your company.

Give me your story, and I’ll do my best to tell the world.

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The problem with social media

All that glitters is not gold. 

This is a paragraph devoted to what “grinds my gears.” Picture this: you’re out with a friend or significant other and you notice that a couple sits down at the table next to you. Immediately, both take out their phones and find more interest in an inanimate bright screen than the person sitting across from them. It’s sad to witness, honestly. In reality, this scenario is a telltale sign of what’s to come or worse–what’s already here.

The human species has thrived through interaction. Oral history was necessary to create cultures and maintain lifestyles. We have evolved drastically, sure, but interpersonal relationships are still critical to society. I can’t imagine texting my Paw Paw Rufus. He gets frustrated when someone calls on a cell phone, for goodness sake. If I want to speak to him, I drive or walk to his house, sit down at his dining room table and have a face-to-face conversation. These are the memories I will carry with me forever, not the ones I post on Facebook because I’m bored.

I understand the importance of social media. My degree focuses specifically on strategies, research, establishment, etc. I learn each day about how companies use SoMe to influence audiences and encourage loyalty. I get excited when I learn about a newly released platform and want to create an account as soon as I can open another tab. I become consumed with books about word of mouth, crisis communication and how everything is now influenced by the average Joe through personal accounts.

Even with the infinite love I have for my personal accounts, I have tried purging the virtual reality of SoMe from my life on a few occasions. It becomes overwhelming to keep up with each platform and post interesting content that my connections actually care about. Facebook, Twitter and other accounts provide instant gratification through the amount of likes and retweets…but those numbers can’t hold a candle to a story Paw Paw Rufus tells me about when he was learning how to two-step.

What we need to do is take more time to talk to people, regardless of who they are. We need to talk to the person next to us at the doctor’s office or in class. We need to get back to the mentality of making someone’s day a little better by just asking how they are. If we’re only here for such a short amount of time, why don’t we use every spare moment to foster more positive relationships–in the real world?