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PR: building relationships or politics?

I had the privilege of talking to a seasoned public relations
practitioner two days ago.  In our eye-opening conversation, we talked
about the field.

I found her perception of the world of PR as very interesting.  After
all she has 15 years experience in the profession so she has seen a
lot of things.  Furthermore, she has lived in five different countries
where she worked as a communicator.  Of course, I was grateful to talk
to her so candidly.

Our conversation took a different turn when she asked me, “What is
PR?”  Naturally, I thought in my head, ‘Are you kidding me?  That’s
easy to answer!’  So I looked at her all starry eyed and said,
“Building relationships.”  She looked at me and shook her head and
said, “No, its politics.”  So then she explained, why she said what
she did.  She said PR is politics because of these key things:

Always know who you’re talking to
Understand how to talk to that person
Realize what that person could do for you
What is this person’s overall role in the organization?
What is the corporate culture of the organization?

Well is she right?  Is PR more about politics than building relationships?  If you’re a junior or senior practitioner – I’d love to hear from you!

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