PR Professionals Cannot Afford to be Gauche

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Public relations jobs are about more than just writing press releases and fielding phone calls. The PR professional acts as a liaison between his or her company and the public. Whether they must lobby for an issue or counter the claims of detractors, all companies, big or small, invariably turn to public relations specialists when faced with crises. Often PR professionals have to accost the media quite early in their PR careers, which, though harrowing, is an important part of the business.

Public relations begins and ends with communication. Because smooth communications are so crucial, PR professionals cannot afford to goof up. Most PR professionals understand when to show discretion. However, even the best of us may misspeak when we are tired, stressed, or distracted.

The job of a PR professional requires one to play up positives and downplay negatives. It takes more than words for a company to regain lost trust. Thus, in damage control situations, the PR professional must communicate strategically and with tact. In such situations, blogs and podcasts, along with more traditional persuasive, creative, and factual writing, have proven to be vital tools. These new modes of communication not only provide the PR industry with additional input from various sources but also allow PR professionals to communicate directly with their audiences. However, they likely will not completely overtake traditional media or change the traditional role of the public relations professional.

Most PR specialists know that their jobs require them to engage in business communication. Nevertheless, they often do not fully master the art of business communication and may find that conversations do not go the way they want. In bids to sound more authoritative than they actually are, they may employ more forceful words and expressions. When frustrated, spokespeople may say more than is expected or blurt out politically incorrect comments.

Regardless of their training, PR specialists can say the darndest things when asked to speak off the cuff. Speeches prepared well ahead of schedule reduce the chances of embarrassing gaffes and can best display the PR professional’s communication skills. PR professionals must recognize the value of preparation and craft their presentations carefully, analyzing not only their words but also their gestures and intonation. They must anticipate ways in which their communications might be misinterpreted and skillfully evade opportunities that could make delicate situations worse.

The art of public speaking goes beyond PowerPoint presentations and assessment charts. It requires well-honed rhetorical skill and sensitivity to the reactions of others. PR professionals simply cannot afford to take their work lightly; so much depends on saying exactly the right thing in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.
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