Meeting publics is public relations

Why isn’t public relations recognised as such?  To quote Autoblog on its report that Ford CEO Alan Mulally spent some time selling cars in a Dearborn dealership:

It’s just cool a CEO would get down in the trenches and actually engage consumers on a showroom floor. There’s no wall of PR behind which he can hide when the tough questions start flying, and apparently he handled whatever came his way with aplomb. Credit goes to Mulally for doing this first, as well. If Rick Wagoner, Tom LaSorda or Jim Press show up to move some product at their respective dealerships, it will smack of a PR stunt and likely backfire. Unfortunately, charm can only take Mulally and his company so far on its path to recovery, so we hope he doesn’t get enamored with a life of retail and gets back to doing CEO-type things quickly.

What Mulally is doing is public relations – establishing dialogue with stakeholders – something that ought to be high up the job description as a “CEO-type thing”.  Isn’t it sad that a CEO actually meeting with publics rather than media, analysts and other intermediaries is seen as a stunt and not an essential part of the job. 

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Meeting publics is public relations”

  1. They probably see it as CEOs coming out of their comfort zones because they have to in order to get in touch with the “people”. As CEOs harness the idea of this sort of public relations with other techniques like blogging then critics might recognise it for what it actually is.

    This week’s PR week has a feature about getting CEOs out there in front of radio and TV more, instead of just print media. Some PRs need to have more faith in their CEos to allow them to do this kind of media interview. It would help stop the kind of comments on Autoblog too if CEOs are more visible.

  2. You are absolutely right Jill – I haven’t had a chance to read PR Week yet – but I agree that if they are running the company, CEOs ought to be able to stand by their views in direct discussion with publics.

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