“Public Relations” Skills. Really?

One interesting aspect of searching for a new public relations position centers on the type of help wanted notices that result from online searches.  As we all have encountered, keyword searches — whether it’s on Google, Bing or the next big online thing — frequently turn up unintended results.

In my enthusiastic, all encompassing, leave-no-stone-unturned, networking-driven quest for a new full-time position in public relations, I’ve come to this realization:  Hiring authorities (or whoever writes help wanted notices) apparently mistake  “public relations” with other disciplines.

Will someone please provide some insight as to how “public relations” relates to jobs that require one to:

1. Distribute samples of an energy drink.
2. Sell auto/home/life/property insurance.
3. Field requests at an inbound call center.

Call me cynical.  It’s just that I, along with thousands of other serious professionals here and abroad, practice true public relations, or at least provide some level of service based on this paraphrased textbook definition:  “The management practice designed to build mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.”*

We provide strategic direction (at least, we should), identify threats to the organization, recognize opportunities, conduct research, and yes, distribute news announcements.   Back to keywords, the key word here is strategy.  Good public relations programs should support strategic initiatives.  Period. Stripped to its essence, public relations is all about communicating.

One may argue that helping to drive sales for consumer products and services or effectively answering a telephone inquiry is, indeed, communicating.  No question that’s true.  It’s just not “public relations.”

*With respect to Cutlip, Center and Broom, authors of “Effective Public Relations.”