My immediate, defensive reaction to Barry French’s Feb. 6 blog entry, “PR Success Is More Than a Degree,” was that public relations skills are absolutely vital to a successful career and contribute to the success of a company or organization. I was taken aback, dare I say deflated, that a respected individual like Mr. French would downplay communication skills and background, and trump business acumen in being able to contribute to the team.
But then I thought about my current position – there probably is no greater requirement to speak and understand the business language, and know the mission statement of your organization when you are a United States Marine, especially when your business can make the difference between living and dying.
So for this entry, I would like to translate the battlefield to the market share, and share the importance of possessing specialized knowledge in each arena.
As a public affairs Marine of 12 years, I have often encountered infantry leaders and commanders (the C-Suite) who think they know not only the desired messages to convey, but how to best convey the message to the target audiences of the American tax payer and local national (stakeholders), often at the sake of overriding/disregarding their public affairs staff.
It is important for the PR practitioner to be able to understand counterinsurgency operations and maneuver warfare (the business they represent), but we have been trained, equipped and empowered with the proper tools, skill set and knowledge of distributing the message and influencing/shaping public opinion by disseminating information as accurately and quickly as possible.
A careful balance must be struck between internal communication within one’s organization, and relaying the information to interested publics, such as taxpayers, stakeholders, consumers and fans of your product, client or organization. Public affairs Marines must be able to understand current and future battlefield operations, and integrate themselves with the commander’s plan.
So after some introspection, I must say that I agree with Mr. French in that a PR practitioner must possess extensive knowledge of the industry in order to contribute to the organization’s profit margin. However, it takes more than just plugging away within a press release template, or e-mailing a media contact distribution list. Combining PR and communication skills with the specialized knowledge, the public affairs Marine (PR/journalism-trained) is a very powerful tool on the battlefield (market share).
Luis Agostini is an active-duty Marine staff sergeant, and serves as the public affairs chief of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and will attend DePaul University College of Communication in September 2012 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising.