It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be getting over a cold or the flu. Recently I came across a quote that Influence and influenza are the same root word because influence is contagious. I like the idea of your influence- your flu- being contagious.

That led me to think back to one of my favorite blog posts that I wrote back in 2011 as a guest blogger for one of my peers.  The assigned topic was “what is public relations.”  I thought I’d share it again so that you could take a look.  Here it is:

We’ve all sat around a room as 30 or more people introduce themselves and their professional titles one-by-one. Most people are comatose by the end, barely paying attention.

For fun, and to see who’s still awake, I occasionally introduce myself as a perception engineer.

After a long pregnant pause, a fellow PR flack in the room usually audibly chuckles or gives me a knowing glare.

Do you agree that the term perception engineer is an appropriate description of public relations? Ultimately, the goal in Public Relations is to influence what others think about a company, product, person or topic.

While the target audience may be unique, the overarching goal to influence what people think remains the same regardless of the tools we use (social media, pitching reporters, newsletters, etc.,). The effort to influence also remains the same regardless of the communication need (crisis, pro-active, reactive, internal, etc.).

Notice that I didn’t offer the term “influence peddler.” Being a perception engineer is significantly different. We engineer strategies and creatively implement how we will influence each target audience. Forget about thinking outside the box, we, as perception engineers, reshape the box. In contrast, an influence peddler simply pushes the same wallpaper messaging from the box to everyone in sight.

Perception engineers understand that there are 100 different ways to accomplish a PR goal, but that there are also a million ways to fail and hurt the intended beneficiary. It’s that personalization of the message and risk of failure that keeps public relations fun, challenging and vital.

The original posting of this was on HMAtime on May 4, 2011.