It occurred to me recently as I was settling in for my fourth meeting of the week with a former student (not the same one four times, I hasten to add!) that somehow I’ve gotten pretty good at one of the key skills of a public relations professional…listening.
I suppose I’ve always been okay at this, but I used to feel the need to always interject my own opinions…even when not solicited…into the conversation.
I’m sure someone reading this will mutter, “Well, you idiot, that’s what PR people are supposed to do!” And he or she will be right, to a degree.
Boston and the world recently got an unfortunate and disturbing lesson on and reminder of the power…and the perils…of information access.
The power lay in the ability of friends, family, loved ones and casual acquaintances from every corner of the earth to connect, comfort, and console each other each time new information was communicated about the unfolding events. And the media, for most part, did a commendable job of providing much-needed updates.
The perils lay in the ability of anyone, anywhere…at any time…to acquire information that, sadly, could be used to inflict harm on others. While I continue to wish that all my fellow beings would only devote their lives to activities that are beneficial to mankind, I’m enough of a realist to know that this isn’t going to happen.
This realization got me thinking about our responsibilities as public relations professionals to communicate…to provide advice and counsel…to clients or employers so that they might better inform their many stakeholders. In particular, the Public Relations Society of America‘s Code of Ethics addresses the “Free Flow of Information,” saying that the public relations professional will “maintain the integrity of relationships with the media, government officials, and the public.”
(Ed: Today’s Tax Day in the U.S. Are you all squared away?)
I had an interesting (to me) exchange of thoughts with a reader of my own blog recently on the subject of person-to-person communication.
I had written about a reassuring experience I had in a restaurant during which the young woman who took my order had initiated and maintained eye contact every time she came to my table.
The reader seemed to be of the opinion that “person-to-person” contact was not so important.
That we should be exploring ways in which to improve our online communications. Apparently, to him, that is the area that needs some touch-up.