PR as personal relations

17 Jul

Graduation This is the first summer since 2003 I've not attended a university graduation ceremony.

Yet I couldn't resist a personal invitation to meet a graduating student who told me that her mother had remembered me from a university opening day four or five years ago. 

I'd already helped connect this student with a graduate vacancy in a global consultancy. She gains all the credit, of course, for her First Class degree and for securing a good graduate job.

But I appear to have influenced her throughout her time at university (whether I was teaching her or not). This reminds me of Joseph Nye's distinction between hard and soft power.

Public relations exerts – at best – soft power. And we are best able to do so when we have established relationships based on trust and mutual respect. It's similar for educators. We have the stick (hard power) of assessment, but the lasting influence is more likely to come from the carrot of influence (or inspiration).

I recently attended a party organised by a teaching colleague I'd worked alongside in the mid 1980s. Among his guests was a former pupil who had left the school over 30 years ago and who made the six hundred mile round trip to be there. There's inspiration; there are relationships; and there are those that endure over time.

Next week I'm looking forward to talking to a University of Westminster student about 'personal relations'. I don't yet know her perspective or research focus but I suspect I'll tell her that personal relations are nothing new, but that we should perhaps view public relations as an aberration.

Photo by reality-check on Flickr

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