While attending the amazing Florida Public Relations Association annual conference, I participated in a strategic thinking and planning session with Peter H. Hollister, principal and counsel at Hollister, Trubow & Associates.
We discussed the importance of training our brains to think more strategically and explored strategic plans as dynamic, living documents with no ending. I took a lot from this session, but the most interesting concept discussed was the idea of public relations professionals actually being referred to as relationship managers.
When you think about it, that’s exactly the role we play. We manage relationships internally and externally, between an organization and its audiences. We are in charge of ensuring those relationships are positive, proactive and continue to grow and prosper. I also like the term “relationship manager” because it touches on the psychology behind PR and the fact that at times we may also be therapists, listening to our audiences and working with them to make sure their needs are met and all parties involved understand each other and can benefit from their relationships.
I once led a branding session for a client and before we were able to move forward with the session, each participant went around the table and shared their internal issues. They needed to vent and I was there to serve as therapist and mediator. Although it took a while to get their feelings out and get on the same page, it actually resulted in a very successful branding session and everyone left feeling like they were heard and were part of the process. In essence, I served as a therapist (listener) and helped manage the relationship between this group, which in turn resulted in a concise brand direction that everyone was behind.
Adopting the concept of relationship managers is also a great way of getting away from the stigma of Public Relations professionals being “spin doctors” or “liars.” Relationship management doesn’t have a negative connotation and it’s new enough that it can allow us as an industry to define and nurture it.
What are your thoughts on public relations vs. relationship management? Do you prefer one over the other or does it even matter?