The current PROs should be exactly like Amélie Poullain. Before you start judging this statement, let me say that I can predict your next thought. It’s: “What the hell are you talking about?” All right, let me explain.
I haven’t seen the movie Amélie until two days ago. Ever since, I can’t stop thinking about one thing – small changes affecting people’s lives in a profound way that are rampant in that film. Malcolm Gladwell’s readers know I’m referring to his concept of tipping point. At one point of the story, the main protagonist working as a waitress at a local café decides to impact people’s lives. Given she is an apprehensive and a melancholic woman, she does so in a subtle way.
So much potential
For example, Amélie acts as a hidden matchmaker between her colleague and one of the regular tavern patrons. Her work behind the scenes is gratified when both potential lovers passionately get it on. She also helps her father to get out of his shell and stop wallowing in sorrow due to his wife’s death and incites him to start travelling around the world. The waitress also manages to get a man who previously inhabited her flat to re-connect to his alienated family. All it takes is a little push in a form of his lost box of childhood treasures. All these magnificent changes in other people’s lives are induced by little details that the main protagonist sets in motion.
Instead of me groveling on behalf of the movie, go watch it yourselves. Or at least read the review if you are too lazy.
Back already? Let’s move on then.
If the PROs adapt the mentality of a fictional melancholic waitress, it can yield some benefits, particularly improvements in their own work. By focusing on changing the public opinion, the PR practitioners will be more valuable for their organizations or clients.
Behind the scenes
For those who don’t know, let’s recap where PR has its roots. Stuart Ewen wrote a book PR! A Social History Of Spin based on interviews with the father of modern PR Edward Bernays. During extensive drilling for information, he got to learn that:
As a member of that intellectual elite which guides the destiny of society, the PR “professional,” Bernays explained, aims his craft at a general public which is essentially, and unreflectively, reactive. Working behind the scenes, out of public view, the public relations expert is “an applied social scientist,” one educated to employ an understanding of “sociology, psychology, social psychology and economics” in order to influence and direct public attitudes.
Let Machiavelli sleep
To avoid misinterpretation, it is vital for you to understand that I am not implicitly advocating elitism and manipulation, like old Eddie did. Neither am I suggesting we should all become Machiavellian bastards like Connie Brean in Wag the Dog. What I am driving at, is that we should stop evaluating our success merely in terms of media outputs.
The changing nature of Public Relations in the current economic and social climate should make us start thinking about our profession differently. We should be evaluating ourselves according to what changes in public opinion we have contributed to or caused; not how many news outlets published our press release.
Stop the publicity, unleash Public Relations
I know that the sound of a coverage book slapping on a client’s table sounds sweet. I know that even sweeter sounds the cash register when you earn that much-coveted success fee. But nothing beats the feeling of success when the target audience starts thinking differently about your product or a brand. Isn’t it high time to stop doing publicity and start practicing Public Relations?