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…