And now to Vilnius, to discuss Lithuania at the crossroad of ethical and “black” public relations..

While preparing for last winter’s ‘Global Relations and Intercultural Communication’ course for the students of NYU’s Master of Science in Public Relations and Corporate Communication, one of the most surprising evidences I discovered in reviewing the existing literature, was the scarcity of research and conceptualization of the ‘personal influence’ model (save for the Indian scholar Sriramesh Krishnamurthy) and, in parallel, the over abundance of evidence from the many existing descriptions of practices in many areas of the world, that this model is widely present and informs a good part of the substance of the way our profession is implemented…. …I am now working on a presentation that I am to deliver on April 19 in Vilnius (Lithuania) (PR FORMOS 2007-Program-eng.pdf) in the context of a conference, organized by the Lithuanian PR Association under the title of Lithuania at the crossroad of ethical and black” public relations…and the occasion is ripe to investigate the reasons why this is so.Most agree, today (although not necessarily yesterday…and this is one big quantum leap that many of us take too much for granted…), that Public Relations is all about ‘relationships with publics’ and that ‘communication’ is only the principal tool/methos adopted by public relators to develop those relationships.

It is clear that the personal influence model is also all about relationships.. and this in the sense that professionals develop them in order to (but only after heaving listened to, understood and interpreted his/her organization’s influential publics so that the dominant coalition take their needs into consideration before taking a decision) influence the dynamics of those publics’ opinions, attitudes, behaviours and decisions, to accelerate the implementation of that decision.

By developing those relationships, the public relations professional exercises as much of his personal influence as possible. Contents and arguments being equal, the professional is as effective as his/her relationships are, and this is one the major values he/she brings to the organization, and certainly the most widely recognized one.

I realize that it is difficult for many of us to ‘swallow’ this fact of life…almost as if professionals and scholars are equally ‘embarassed’ by this bare and crude truth, because nothing is as ambiguous as the term relationship or personal influence. But public relations is ambiguous by definition, and we must accept this, particularly when living, as we now do, in societal dynamics which are bending just about every other professional activity towards similar ambiguities.

I am confident that if we only devoted more efforts to studying the personal influence model we would elaborate rational concepts to place this model into a wider perspective, identify and thoroughly investigate the many specific and professional competences which are needed to effectively implement personal influence, considering of course all the specific public relations and the immaterial infrastructures of a given territory.

You might, at this point, ask: what correlation is there between black pr (the theme of the Lithuanian conference) and the personal influence model?

We’ll leave this for the next post, but please in the meantime, let me know if this argument is, in your opinion, sound…

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One Reply to “And now to Vilnius, to discuss Lithuania at the crossroad of ethical and “black” public relations..”

  1. More than sound, but, unfortunately, less and less possible, for a variety of reasons.

    Back in the olden days… the 1970s in my timeline… there were lots of quite senior PR people in many large organizations.

    And when I was consulting back then, almost always, our contacts with our clients were at the very senior levels. We might have worked with someone in Marketing or Personnel, but mostly, our contact was higher up.

    But over the years, I’ve seen the senior people fired, or retired, and replaced by people with lower level titles, and lower level authority.

    And smaller budgets.

    As the finance people rose and PR people decliend — note that no one anywhere can find any indication ever that any leader of any PR association ever tried under any circumstances (Some Brits are exceptions) to promote our profession and keep or regain our role in senior management — PR people had less opportunity to develop relationahsips.

    PR people can’t get approvals to buy tickets to go see their companies’ plants and factories and sales offices. They don’t have permission, let alone budget, to go have lunch wioth a reporter, even if the reporter insists on splitting the bill so as not to be corrupted b y $30 woirrth of sandwich and beer.

    Try to find mid-level PR people who have met their employer’s clients.

    It was hard enough to try to develop relationships when PR people were stuck in the office and had to talk on the phone.

    At least casual conversation merged with the business talk. But now, in a world with rare travel, no-one answering their telephones, and e-mail being the mail communications device, relationships are worse than ever.

    My “world” used to be pretty big. All of Canada, much fo the USA, some of the Carribbean. A dozen factories, two dozen sales offices, six municipal governments (plus others, sometimes) five provincial governments, dozens of federal politicians, and, among various employers and clients, maybe 100 customers I met at senior levels and talked with in person.

    As I hve listened in recent years to the complaints and/or observations of younger PR people, I began to realize how lucky I had been to work for several big organizations where PR was both understood and respected.

    As I read those surveys PR organizations like to put out about how high up some PR people worked, I actually was silly enough to believe them. When someone said they worked with the CEO, I thought that meant they were int eh same room at the same time talking with each other, knowing each others’ names.

    Later I learned that wasn;t quite right. The PR person gave her work to her boss, who gave it to someone else, who may have passed it on to the CEO’s secrtetary, who gave it to the big guy.

    And now, PR people report to marketing managers and, even worse, personnel department managers.

    It’s getting harder and harder to find PR people allowed to develop relationships, inside and outside, let alone interested in developing them.

    Another example? If we’re willing to agree that media relations is a big part of PR, just take a look at how many news releases are sent with no human contact via the news release disribution systems, usually withj the owd “leading” in the first paragraph.

    More? Go to the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Busienss Communicators web sites and look for any indication that the PR people at either one (Janet Troy, Joseph Uglades) have made any effort to use their web sites to develop any relationships with their members and other stake holders.

    For that matter, look for any relationship-building by the elected bosses and the paid bosses of either association.


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