The confluence of Public Relations and faith

A noble profession that needs more faithful practitioners

Public Relations often gets a bad rap. 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 behavior of some industry leaders is so far off the hinges at times it’s hard to gain an appreciation for the serious academic underpinnings of the profession. At times the same could be said about faith too. The negatives will stop here; the purpose of this text is to share a seldom appreciated aspect of Public Relations – that 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 of the University of Maryland and industry associations, provides a glimpse into this noble character.

A real “game changer” by James Grunig

A real “game changer” by James Grunig

Excellence in Public Relations and Communications Management, by James E. Grunig, is one of the leading textbooks on the field of Public Relations. It can take a while to read – especially through the first chapters on Worldview – but is well worth the effort! It can be a “game changer” in one’s career in communications.

“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, these efforts must invariably include listening, dialogue, compromise and continual communication.  For the advocate in me and my own conscience, the operative word here is compromise. Organizations managed by leaders who understand the power of true Public Relations know that they too must change – at least in temporal ways – to ensure the sustainability and success of their organizations. I mean change for the good where change in possible. For example, they must pollute less, pay competitive wages, recycle, innovate and keep better lines of communication with media – to name but one audience group.

In many small ways, 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 key audience groups. 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.

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