Monday, March 9, 2009

Not a publicist!

Arrgh. When will headline writers and reporters get it straight? There is a distinct professional called "public relations." We're not publicists. There is a huge difference. The first team hired were public relations professionals.

Publicists are generally singularly focused on getting a book author, or an actor, set up with a TV or magazine interview. They "book" appearances. Many of them are great at what they are tasked to do. Publicists fulfill distinct needs, which generally involve short bursts of seeking positive publicity.

Public relations professionals, on the other hand, have broader responsibilities and, usually, more in-depth communications training. We develop comprehensive strategies to communicate an issue, a product, a cause, a financial report, a medical breakthrough. Our role is generally to develop lasting relationships between a company and target audience. We do many things to ensure a positive, lasting memory about a company's or product's reputation.

In the course of these efforts, our path may take us along the same one as a publicist. In the "octomom" situation, public relations professionals were hired -- on a pro bono basis -- at the beginning because they thought they only had a medical breakthrough story to convey (and never envisioned what was about to explode upon them).

Public relations versus publicist. It usually takes at least three tries, a couple of lunches, about 30 minutes of someone's time, maybe a martini or two, and ....finally... you can see the light bulb go off above your friend's head (or a reporter's head) when they finally understand the difference between "publicity" and "public relations." We try to define this as best we can. Yet, it seems we still are not doing a good enough public relations job to define "PR."

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