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A better society through PR

Dec 8, 2017

Last month, I had the privilege to serve on a panel for the Michigan Early Middle College Association Fall Student Leadership Conference at Lansing Community College, which honed in on student civic engagement. Now, we all know I’m an engagement evangelist, so you bet I took the charge to help equip future advocates to grow, promote and sustain an idea. Personally, I believe engaged, passionate citizens are the key to a better tomorrow.

I joined State Representative Tom Cochran, Ingham County Commissioner Sarah Anthony and Telecommunications Association of Michigan’s Government Policy Director Jennifer Greenburg on a panel titled What to Expect? How decision makers will respond. My approach was to give students a peek into PR’s relationship with decision makers, as well as add my own experiences as a city committee decision maker myself.

We knew the students had identified a passion, had begun to develop an advocacy plan for it, and had contacted decision makers. Now what? Enter public relations. Here's what I shared with the student leaders...

The Public Relations Society of America says that public relations is a "strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

When it comes to decision-making, it’s my role as a PR professional to help tell the story of the different publics I work with to decision makers in a way they understand and can act on.

Traditionally, public relations focuses on how to make organizations more effective. We’ve started to ask ourselves, however, PR can be used to make society better. We know that we have the ability to do more, and we’re doing just that. Today, PR plays a central role in community relations, civic engagement and democracy.

Our clients are different kinds of organizations -- from nonprofits, to associations, to government, to small businesses. When we help clients achieve a goal that is impacted by a piece of legislation, regulation, or even the position or viewpoint of a decision maker, we build in ways to help influence that decision maker. Influence is a powerful thing, and in PR, it is rooted in data and expertise.

My biggest job as a PR professional is to tell stories. And a PR pro’s role improving society through civic engagement is to make sure the client’s story is told in a way that makes people care and makes people act.

I loved and drew from these articles as part of my research. All are great reads for experienced and budding PR pros, alike. 

A social capital approach to improving public relations’ efficacy: Diagnosing internal constraints on external communication

Social Capital as a Measure of Public Relations Impact

Communicating Public Relations' Value

Redefining Public Relations in the Age of Social Media

Tags: civic engagement, public relations, leadership, community relations, students