The term “public relations” holds various meanings for those in this industry. There are times that “PR” becomes synonymous with “Protector of Reputations.” In honor of President’s Day and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday approaching, I want to reference one of Honest Abe’s adages:
“Perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of it, the tree is the real thing.
I’m sure you’re asking, “Trees and shadows, what the heck does that mean and how does it have anything to do with PR?” Here is how I interpret this quote and apply it in my work. A shadow, or in this case, a reputation, is something that is not consistent. Shadows change when there’s a change in the light source and its position, as well as the angle from which you are viewing the object casting said shadow. In turn, a reputation is also not consistent. It can change as a result of behavior (good or bad) and the perspective from which someone views the behavior. The tree (or character), on the other hand, never changes. The shadow of the tree is determined solely on the tree. No matter where you view the tree from, it remains the same.
So, where am I going with all of this? Yes, as PR professionals, we truly are responsible for protecting our clients’ reputations, but the building of that reputation is dependent upon the character of the client. This is why it is so important for us to pitch media opportunities with outlets that positively portray our clients and the work on which they stand. One slip up, and we could be left with a PR mess faster than you can recite the Gettysburg Address! We wear the hat of reputation protector because without a strong image (character), we as PR professionals cannot cast a strong shadow (reputation) for our clients.