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Reviving the Lost Art of Relations – the Heart of Public Relations

Two female friends meeting for a coffee

Nearly every time we interview a job candidate the first thing we hear is, “I’m a good writer and know social media.” While important, this claim misses the most important skill required for every exceptional public relations professional: the ability to build, nurture, and keep relationships.

Public Relations is really all about “relations.”

Yet sadly, relating or establishing relations is becoming a lost art, one that needs reviving.

We all know who to relate to – clients, media representatives, colleagues, influencers, analysts, ad reps, etc. – but not necessarily how to do it.

The word “relations” is defined by Webster’s as “the way in which two or more people talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other.”

Let’s look at the key phrases here: two or more, toward, and with each other. It’s clear that relating (building relations) requires two-way dialogue. Yet how often do PR people call their contacts – any contact – simply to have a dialogue, without an agenda, without asking them to do something? Rarely, even though it’s the most important call they can make.

So, how do you start this type of dialogue – how do you build relations?

Step one: go off-line. Pick up the phone and have a conversation. Attend networking events and listen to what others around you have to say. Go to industry shows and proactively reach out to old and new contacts. Participate in professional associations. Attend meet and greet events with editors to learn how they want to interact. Ask questions to discover their particular viewpoints. Put time into learning about others and what they need professionally. Meet for coffee or lunch. Listen attentively to personal stories. Learn about their hobbies – about what they do outside work. Support them and their activities because you care about them as individuals and professionals. Send handwritten notes of thanks or to share something that you know will interest them.

Step two: connect on social media. But, don’t stop there. Actively engage with your contacts to extend the relationships through comments, posts, shares, likes and emails. But, never rely solely on technology to maintain the relationship.

Cases in Point:

  • One of our professional contacts loves to play guitar. Having shared a conversation with her about this she invited us to connect with her music sites on social media. By engaging with her through these sites (as well as continuing to relate with her professionally through other means) we learned that she was having a charity CD release party. Our work happened to put us in the area on the same day as the event, so we attended, not to advocate for a client or to push an agenda, but to relate to her and strengthen the relationship we already had.
  • I started working with a rather well-know technology editor nearly 20 years ago and by proactively focusing on the relations in PR, I nurtured a strong working relationship. He would regularly reach out to me when he changed publications, needed expert input, heard a rumor that needed verification or denial, or simply to shoot the breeze. Today, though he is retired, we still maintain a professional friendship, engage on social media, and support each other’s interests and causes.

So what’s the ROI from this extra effort?

  • Establishing strong, two-way relations with professional contacts means you have a network of individuals who are willing to help you each and every time you reach out, to the best of their abilities.
  • Second, you have the opportunity to meet and get to know truly intelligent and interesting people, and ultimately, to call them friends.

So what Relations are you going to build today?

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