Thursday, July 15, 2010

The value of PR and driving fast

Old School NASCAR- Richard Petty 1992Image by James Marvin Phelps (mandj98) via Flickr
Tom Burke, APR, Greater Fort Worth PRSA

Thanks to a special gift received this past Christmas, I recently had the opportunity to "Be like Richard Petty" by driving a 600-horsepower NASCAR car eight laps around the 2.5-mile track at Texas Motor Speedway. My wife didn't understand why such an experience was a big deal. After all, she said, I drive along Interstate 35 everyday as if I am racing at the Speedway. Friends and colleagues figured I was checking off an item on my bucket list. Truth is, the only item on my bucket list is to not "kick the bucket" each and every day!

Traveling along at 130 mph like a pea crammed into an extra-small pod (how do pro racers drive 500 or so miles in such conditions?) certainly gives you a different perspective on things, especially when you have to navigate banked turns and zip alongside a daunting wall displaying black skid marks from earlier confrontations, all of which the wall easily won. It also makes you realize that this is what many of us in the fast-paced world of public relations profession do on a daily basis; we speed along, perhaps overlooking opportunities to display the art and science of our profession.

While many would argue that the deep value of public relations is exemplified during a crisis, such as the BP offshore drilling incident in the Gulf of Mexico, perhaps because we often are moving at the speed of sound we forget how powerful and beneficial public relations can be during the best of times. Take, for instance, corporate social responsibility. From Tom's Shoes to Kimberly-Clark to the Pepsi Refresh Project, the American Express Members Project and the IBM Corporate Service Corps, companies worldwide are becoming part of the corporate social responsibility trend. As Laura Moore, vice president, global communications, Kimberly-Clark, said during the June Greater Fort Worth PRSA luncheon, through its corporate social responsibility program, Kimberly-Clark and its employees contributed $21.6 million in cash and product donations and 60,000 hours of time to charitable causes worldwide last year. Kimberly-Clark highlighted these amazing accomplishments in its "2009 Sustainability Report Summary." It's a classic example of a classic definition of public relations: "Do good, then tell others."

When you've done good, and told others, it can make it a lot easier to pick up the pieces if you happen to crash into a wall going 130 mph or more.

That's the value of public relations.
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