Monday, August 20, 2007

My 5 Minutes and 10 Seconds of Fame

Call me cynical, but I've never been a fan of graduations. I think it goes back to my high school graduation when some "important" person gave a speech in which he turned the word "graduation" into a 10-letter acronym. That's right, he had something to say about each letter in "graduation." It was very long, and I was very bored.

Anyway, I was adamant about not wanting to walk in my college graduation; much to the dismay of my wife and parents. The way I see it is you pay $40 bucks to rent a dress robe that you wear for two hours and sit through a painful reading of every graduates' name.

Ok, I know I sound extremely pessimistic, but rest assured that my attitude has changed. I decided to walk in graduation after receiving an invitation to speak on behalf of the PR department at convocation.

So, Friday morning at 8 a.m. I graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations from Brigham Young University. My speech went well and it was an honor to be asked to speak. I titled the speech "Relationships to Last a Lifetime: Embracing Your Inner PR." Lame title, I know, but I had submit the title of my speech before I'd even written it. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

All in all, graduation was a great experience for me and I'm glad I did it. I gave my five minute speech and had my five seconds of fame as I walked across the stage to get my diploma. I still, however, may need to be convinced to walk again in graduation when I get my MBA.

Here's some excerpts from the speech:

Public relations, or PR, has started to take on a negative connotation in today’s world. We often hear phrases like, “That’s some bad PR,” or “That company has a real PR problem.” Phrases like these and many others lead me to believe that public relations itself has, well, a PR problem.

In an attempt to understand public relations and how we can embrace that inner PR in all of us, we must first understand what public relations really is. To do so it may be helpful to outline what public relations is not. Public relations is not spin, free publicity, making your organization (or client) look good, nor is it lying. On a side note, just because these four items identify what public relations is not, this does not mean that there are not individuals out there doing these sorts of things. One would be hard-pressed to find a profession without its unethical practitioners.

Now that we understand what public relations is not, let us now identify what public relations really is, or at least should be. Laurie Wilson, seated on the stand today, defined public relations as “an organization’s efforts to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships in order to communicate and cooperate with the publics upon whom long-term success depends” (Strategic Communications Planning for Effective Public Reations and Marketing, 3).

Notice the words “mutually beneficial relationships,” “communicate and cooperate,” and “long-term success.” There is no room for spin, lying or free publicity in this definition.

Given this definition of PR as being the art of relationship building, it’s not hard to imagine then, that there is a little in PR in all of us. Art, music and, yes, even molecular biology students, all have a little PR within themselves. Let’s delve a little deeper into the various relationships many of us have established.

Prior to graduation today, I have gained a great deal of experience in public relations. In fact, my most recent internship with General Motors has now turned into a full-time job. I highlight this not to be boastful, but to show how my professors have helped me gain the experience I need.

During my time at BYU I have been blessed to have some absolutely wonderful teachers to guide and inspire me to be the very best PR professional (and individual) I can be. The enthusiasm and passion of my first public relations teacher, Mark Carpenter, inspired me to forgo the legal field and to pursue a career in public relations. Or there is Brad Rawlins, who taught me that humility is what makes a good employee, not a sense of arrogant entitlement. I attribute all the PR experience I have to the influence and guidance of these great professors. Because of the relationship I have cultivated with these professors, I feel comfortable asking for professional advice even after I graduate.

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