Thirty (ii)

“Public relations theory has moved on, particularly following what was known as the Excellence study twenty odd years ago. And the theory is translating into practice, at least where and when it’s encouraged. In this instance we’re not talking ‘spin’. We’re talking about…”, she looked down at her laptop to read something verbatim, “the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behavior, and to be influenced similarly, in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill.”

Yvonne looked around the room to make sure we got that. “So good public relations tries to get the organization to understand the people out there as much as we try to get them to understand us. It’s open, transparent, honest.”

Michelle had tapped something into her Macbook and now jumped in again. “Well that’s marketing’s job,” she asserted. “If we’re making academic references here,” (ouch), “I have the definition for marketing: the process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.

“That’s from ‘Principles of Marketing’,” she continued, “we can’t create value without understanding customers, and a relationship can’t be one-way. So that’s why market research and PR come under this definition.”

“PR is different from marketing.”

“No it isn’t.”

“Oh yes, PR is quite separate.”

“Of course it isn’t. PR is a sub-discipline of marketing.”

“Are you for real?! And besides customers are just one public…”

I blew my whistle, figuratively speaking: “Could we stop there please. My gut tells me this isn’t a productive line of argument.”

There was probably only four or five seconds of silence, but it felt a bit longer, and I was thankful when Saket piped up.

“If I may suggest a way in which all the topics you raised Eli are connected, and that encompasses definitions of marketing and PR come to that.”

We were all ears.

“No organization is an island. Rather, it must interact with all those parties around it in order to pursue and achieve its objectives. There is interaction. Movement. Flow. But flows of what?”

The question appeared rhetorical, but at the same time we wanted to answer it.

“Product”, said John.

“And services”, said Michelle.

“And materials to build the products”, John added.

“And flows of money, when we buy materials, and sell products”, I said. “And when we buy services, including employing people, and when we sell services.”

“And reputation? No. Reputation doesn’t flow, does it? Well not all which ways.” Yvonne was challenging her own contribution.

Saket responded but had moved too far from his mic. I asked him to repeat what he was saying.