17.04.15 / Posted by jirehconsult

‘Public Relations practitioners’ – that’s the politically correct term to use, but more often than not, we are referred to as ‘PR people’. Regardless of terminology, and industry or background, it is common to hear people say ‘just do some PR with them…’ implying just ‘pretend’ to be nice to someone in order to achieve your desired result or outcome. This particular line has gone around the hood and guess what?… It has smeared our profession and reputation by implying that we, PR people are fake, not genuine, not sincere; we are only nice because we need something.

Something must have seriously gone wrong in the line of communication because somewhere along the way, the message on the PR profession has been diluted if not changed completely. No longer a newbie in this industry, I am saddened by this misperception of PR people.

Yes, PR people smile a lot.
Yes, PR people make small talk with anyone and everyone during events or otherwise, and
Yes, PR people can switch that smile into a frown in a second.

But understand our position.
Why do we smile a lot? Simple. It is our job.
Part of our job is handling media events such as launches and media briefings. During such events, we meet, engage and interact with a lot of people, including members of the media, guests of the event, our clients and their other co-workers (whom we don’t liaise with on a day-to-day basis), event crew, emcee, venue liaisons (such as hotel staff or managers), on-site photographers and probably a number more people depending on the scale of the event.

So we are nice to everyone because it creates a domino effect. When we are nice to the person at the bottom of the food chain, eventually the one at the top will also be happy. But, if at any level we upset or spoil anyone’s mood, the event will still go on. However, the atmosphere will not be as amiable. And during the post-event review, it is quite inevitable that the ‘PR people’ who had upset someone will get an earful.  Certainly not something we fancy after putting in hours of hard work and effort to ensure that the client’s message is well communicated.

Anyway, we smile a lot as well because it makes us feel better inside and we are confident that most people prefer to deal with a smiling face than a sour puss.

Yes, ‘PR people’ make small talk with anyone and everyone during events or otherwise.
As earlier mentioned, since we are meeting a whole bunch of people from the whole spectrum, it is expected that we can carry conversations with them. And not simply give out instructions like robots or machines. We are communicators first, aren’t we?

So as PR people, we are expected to be friendly and have a pleasant disposition in order to be able to start a conversation with perfect strangers. It is part of the job scope and mind you, the ability to do so is a direct reflection of your company and client, and a reflection of yourself.

I am sure you have come across ‘PR people’ who are rather quiet and wonder why and how they can be in PR. My take is … cut them some slack. They could be having a really bad day, be in pain, sick or even maybe received bad news. However, in our PR life, you can’t just not show up even when you are sick – people are counting on you to run the communications for them at the event.

Yes, PR people can switch that smile into a frown in a second.
Hmmm, this is a tricky one. If you are sneakily observing us from a corner, yes we can turn our smile into a frown instantly for a various number of reasons. For example, we are signing in media at the registration counter, we greet them with a smile, ask them how their day was and usher them to the designated event area. Then we realise someone forgot to inform the media of parking or did not include the right version of the press release in the media kit…surely our full blown smile will fade as we need to go into ‘damage-control-mode’ (exaggerated though, but you get the picture). But from your corner, it may look like we faked a smile to the media then we are back to our grouchy selves (exaggerating again).

So in my humbleness, I do request for everyone to stop carrying tales that PR people are fake and so on, because unless you are standing in our shoes, you have no idea the storm that we are in or have just averted.

Desiree Ann
April 2015