The confluence of Public Relations and faith
A noble profession that needs more faithful practitioners
Public Relations often gets a bad rap. In the world of mass media and pop culture, the Catholic faith doesn’t often fare much better (though many are changing that). And that’s not where the relation between the two ends. Public Relations is terribly misunderstood and the public conversation related to it is so far off the hinges at times it’s hard to gain an appreciation for the serious academic underpinnings of the profession. Some could say that about faith too. The negatives will stop here…The purpose of this text is to share a seldom appreciated aspect of Public Relations: the profession, when properly understood, can be a bona fide vocation and blessing that can help the world in myriad ways.
My preferred definition of Public Relations, a combination of definitions from James Grunig and the Canadian Public Relations Society, provides a glimpse into this noble character.
“Public Relations is the management function that helps to nurture relationships between an organization and its stakeholders – groups that can either enhance or constrain the ability of the organization to deliver on its mission, with the good of society in mind.”
In order to enjoy the fertile, sustainable and good relationships that are implied in this definition, organizations must deploy some effort in Public Relations, at least theoretically. And, according to best practices in PR, these campaigns must invariably include listening, dialogue, compromise and continual communication. For the advocate in me and my own conscience, the operative word here is compromise. Companies owned and managed by leaders who understand the power of true Public Relations know that they too must often change in order to ensure the sustainability and success of their organizations. I mean change for the good. For example, they must pollute less, pay more, recycle, innovate and keep better lines of communication with media – to name one public or audience group.
In many small ways such as these, PR fulfills its critical role of building meaningful bridges between organizations and the publics on which the future of these organizations depend, as well as an organizational culture that is ready to change in alignment with the good of its stakeholders. These principles apply to the faith sector as it does to the for-profit sector. If more people knew this noble character of Public Relations, and practiced what they preached, the world would be a far better place.