When I meet the “father of Public Relations,” Edward Bernays, he was in his 90s. I was a USC grad student in the School of Journalism working on my Masters in Public Relations (MPR). A small group of us had gathered at a Public Relations Student Society of America reception at a national conference to meet the living legend. His body may have been feeble, but his brain was still wickedly razor sharp.
He said something to us so simple, and perhaps even obvious upon reflection. At the time, the full impact of his words and what he meant was not apparent or immediate. But they lingered in my mind, almost hauntingly.
Bernays said, “The most powerful force in the world is people power.”
I have quoted Bernays saying this over the years many times. To college students in PR classes as a guest lecture, to the high school robotics team marketing students whom I mentor, and even to my sons who are in college. All of us have now witnessed this first hand.
Two words define how profound Bernays observation was 30 years before: Arab Spring.
But let’s be less profound and more simplistic in the application of his meaning: people are the power. Everything we do is about people, and yet somehow, we tend to forget that.
The Best PR
Because of my background, people often ask me the difference between good PR and great PR. They don’t always like my answer, but I believe it to be the truth. It’s the people.
You can have the most strategically brilliant PR strategy and plan in the world. You may have honed the perfect story with the most precise words, the most original phrases, and the ideal messaging. You might have correctly defined your audiences and their personas, the key influencers you need to build alliances with, and the most precise and well-crafted media lists. You could have addressed your competition with the right positioning for your strategic advantages and your core differentiation. Your plan might even include a way to identify your detractors and move them towards support, or at least place them in neutral territory.
Even if you had all of this, the only thing that will make the best PR plan in the world work is the best people. It is that simple.
Stuck in the Middle
PR staffs at companies and PR agencies today are filled with mediocracy. Middle performers dominate the PR world, and they have an “okay is just good enough” attitude.
If you don’t believe me, call a handful of reporters who cover the real estate industry regularly. Ask them to name 10 PR professionals they think are rock stars; Okay, ask them to name six. If you get three, it will be a miracle. That’s the most I have ever received, and I’ve done this more than a dozen times in the last three years. Most of the time, it is one or two.
No Less Than the Best
At the WAV Group, one of our greatest challenges is to be able to meet the growing needs of the real estate industry for the best PR. That’s why we have reached out to some of the most highly skilled and proven PR people in the business to build our bench.
While we want to meet the growing industry demand to provide highly successful PR programs, we must have the best talent pool: people who know the real estate space better than anyone else. But more importantly, people who are known to be among the best PR people there are.
To paraphrase the late, great Edward Bernays, “People power in PR is what makes the most powerful PR in the world.”