There are many benefits when one is teaching and continuing to do client work. One of the most interesting is being exposed to how young people, and experienced professionals, today are viewing the role of communications.
The university-level view surfaced recently when we were discussing the role of persuasion in public relations. To many, of course, the word sounds a bit strong and heavy handed. And some may believe it belongs on one end of the job-description spectrum.
The students broke evenly into two groups: those who bought into the term and those who were immediately turned off by their perception of what it means. With this divide, the progression of the discussion was quite meaningful and got us to another word: education.
Again, two groups seemed to form: those who believed communicators should educate and those who continued to believe that communicators should persuade.
Importantly, we next moved on to goals, strategies and tactics — and the students began to sort through some of the realities of the public relations business. First of all, they began to see that, while persuasion is important, it needs to be viewed as an objective or goal. And, most importantly, they began to grasp the all-important role of education and how it functions as a key strategy that enables everything else to fall into place.
Separately, a recent client experience also was meaningful in that the client was interested in hoping to test the “proof of concept” of a business expansion that he was considering. His initial goals were modest: he simply wanted to “capture” the phraseology being used successfully at one site so it could be replicated in another.
As the process moved forward, however, the original communications mandate morphed into a consulting engagement that was far-more important (and beneficial to the client). At the end, the communications piece of the project not only provided insights as to proof of concept, it also provided important observations and implications regarding branding, staff needs/retention, training, targeting new clients and, probably at the top of the list, crisis vulnerability.
Net-net, communications is moving in the right direction.