It seems appropriate at this time of year to at least acknowledge that those of us who have worked or are working in public relations are blessed with that wond’rous organ known affectionately as the “heart.”
Last time I checked, we all had one, both literally and figuratively, although the latter can be difficult to detect sometimes according to our friends in the media and elsewhere.
Heart, though, is a key element in any successful public relations effort. Without it, messages have a tendency to go unheeded, attitudes to remain unchanged, and programs to fail.
How does this “heart” analogy work?
Effective public relations is a combination of data-driven research (the means through which programs spring to life and are nourished) and emotionally-influenced message development.
Factual, practical analysis helps us get to the root of a problem or opportunity so that we can better craft the messages that help our stakeholders arrive at a better understanding of an action or event affecting them.
But the “message” has to come from the other…the emotional…heart and demonstrate clearly and convincingly that our employer or our client truly does understand and appreciate the impact of that action or event on those stakeholders.
I’m not suggesting that our communications should be tear-drenched rivers of heart-wrenching words. Sometimes straight-and-to-the-point is the best route.
The successful communicator understands the importance of developing a connection with his or her audiences and speaking to them in meaningful ways.
And this is where the second heart comes in. That “heart” senses the emotions of the moment and guides the communicator in selecting words or actions that best convey understanding and empathy.
The message itself addresses a situation in terms that the recipient can understand and (hopefully) accept as valid and viable.
Take heart, and have a heart. A simple maxim to guide us in our efforts to communicate with those who look to us for guidance and information.
“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but by the heart.” – Blaise Pascal, “Pensees” , no. 282
Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is Associate Professor of Communication (Undergraduate) at Curry College in Milton, MA. He also is Visiting Lecturer, Organizational and Professional Communication (Graduate), at Regis College in Weston, MA. Prior to his move into academia, Kirk practiced nonprofit and government public relations and marketing for more than 35 years in the US as well as Asia. Accredited by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Kirk is a Member of PRSA’s national Board of Directors and has held leadership positions with PRSA Educators Academy and PRSA Northeast District as well as with the Boston and Hawaii PRSA chapters.