Last this fall, I was referred to as a “PR guy” by blogger Robert Thompson in relation to the communications work that I do for Nike Golf Canada.
I’ve been called worse things.
Most people in my line of work hate the acronym PR, short for public relations. So to be called a PR guy or, worse, a flak, is not our favourite thing. (I laughed it off with friends. Honest. Scout’s honour.) The preference is ‘communications professional,’ but PR guy is way shorter, so go with it.
PR conjures up images of a corporate spin-master who manipulates information to deceive people, cover up messes, score points, build up an image, or restore one, and so on. In a cartoon about a PR guy, he’d be a slickster dressed in black with a sinister voice.
I could care less what someone calls me, as long as people in the golf industry know about me, read my stuff, and some of them engage my services.
I was recently called upon by Anne Douglas, a sessional lecturer at the University of Guelph, to share some what I’ve learned about PR in the golf business with her first-year students taking Turf Communication Skills in the Turfgrass Management program. Most of the students are aiming at careers as superintendents at golf courses.
I began by noting the aforementioned cynical but common perception of PR. Indeed, it can sometimes be that, but if that’s how you, your golf course or business interacts with the world, it’s ultimately self-defeating. You will eventually suffer from your own lack of integrity. You have to be accountable and truthful in this world. (Yes, it does sound like a dad speech.)
To me, the art of PR is just communicating in a straight forward manner on behalf of yourself, a client or an organization.
I am convinced that one of the most important elements of PR is GR. That is, developing and maintaining good relationships.
Good relationships are the key to prospering. Let’s be clear: I am not saying the golden road to success is ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know,’ or ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.’
My point is that if you have good relationships, you get closer to what you want—in all things. To me, the basis of all good relationships is trust and connection. And you create trust and connection through communication. If you can’t communicate openly with one person, 100 people or one million, you will not connect, and you won’t develop trust.
Great communicators connect. They do this by being open, by letting other’s inside, even just a little. They touch another person’s soul. This is why fans were immediately drawn to Arnold Palmer, and why they eventually came to love Jack Nicklaus when he started to let down his façade.
In the male-dominated world of golf, this will cause some to wretch, but to connect with people you have be somewhat vulnerable and share some of your feelings.
For God’s sake, I don’t mean you have to cry when snow mould leaves dead spots on your greens, or offer a hug to a member who three-putted your freshly aerated 18th green.
It means to interact with others with humility, honesty, directly, on an even plane, connect eyeball-to-eyeball, and be totally present for that person.
And a good communicator doesn’t drone on. In my next post, I’ll finish my PR lecture.