PR book On-line Readings in Public Relations by Michael Turney
Parallels between interpersonal relations and public relations
can enhance your understanding of both.
© 2011; 2016 Michael Turney Table of contents Practicing Public Relations
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Understanding how individuals inter-relate and communicate with one another can improve your ability to perform public relations. Similarly, strengthening your public relations skills may help you be more successful in building meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Whether you're a student just beginning to study public relations or an experienced public relations practitioner with years of experience under your belt, exploring the similarities between interpersonal communication and corporate (or organizational) communication is an ideal way to better understand the essence of public relations. Despite differences in their scope and magnitude, the underlying concepts are the same.

Practitioners who haven't previously thought about this may not immediately agree. But, after thinking about it for a while, most thoughtful practitioners do recognize the parallels between trying to manage communication and build relationships at these two different levels: person-to-person and organization-to-organization.

There is little agreement on which type of relationship management is more difficult.

Some practitioners think professional corporate communication that involves managing corporate-level, public relationships is much more challenging than maintaining interpersonal relationship simply because of the size and complexity of the organizations involved. Others argue that managing interpersonal relationships is much more challenging and difficult because they involve more emotionalism and unpredictable individual behavior. They claim that large, impersonal organizations are easier to work with because they are more consistent, more predictable, and more stable than individual people.

In actual practice, both are correct when it comes to some people and some organizations. But, not all the time and not in all situations. There is such a wide range of diversity in both personal and organizational styles, that no single generalization will cover every situation.

The truth is: neither interpersonal nor organizational relations are consistently easy or consistently difficult. Nor is one any more predictable than the other. They are entirely dependent upon the personalities of the people involved, their relative skill levels, their emotional reactions to one another, and their current motivation levels.

Both levels of relationship building require careful thought and skillful techniques.

However, the good news is that many public relations practitioners now believe that the skills and tactics they have learned and perfected at one level can easily and effectively transfer to the other level.

Too often, these parallels are overlooked.

It's surprising and disheartening how often the parallels and transferability of skills between interpersonal relations and public relations is taken for granted, quickly skimmed over, or not fully discussed in public relations textbooks. Some don't even mention it at all. And, quite frankly, I must sadly admit that I made a similar mistake myself when I first started teaching public relations. I didn't talk about interpersonal relations and interpersonal communication because they seemed too obvious and too basic to waste class time discussing in a junior-level college class. I assumed everyone had already learned about them in their freshman-level speech course and there was no need to waste time bringing them up again.

Fortunately, I didn't persist in doing this. As I gained experience teaching and practicing public relations, I became cognizant of just how critical the parallels between interpersonal relations and public relations are and how valuable it can be to model behavior from one level to the other.

Don't become so specialized or pretentious that you overlook the obvious.

Remember: even though some of the tools and techniques used by public relations professionals are fairly sophisticated and high-tech, the basic concepts of public relations and many of its methods remain rooted in interpersonal common sense and basic relationship strategies. Building relationships is what interpersonal relations and public relations are both all about.

Analyzing what you, as an individual, do or don't do, in relating to the people you deal with as individuals or in groups, is an effective starting point for thinking about how you, as a public relations practitioner, can help an organization relate to other organizations and to its collective publics.

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