Well, it’s New Year’s Day. And I’ve already completed my first run of 2008 – five miles in a 30 mph wind. Hope that running into the wind is not a sign of things to come for those of us in public relations and public relations education this year. But stick with me for a minute or so. I have another point I want to make about public relations as we start the new year.
I know it may seem strange that I run at 5:30 a.m. on a holiday. But I’ve been doing it now for 20 years or more. And fortunately, my wife, Mary, is understanding and forgiving of this minor (major?) flaw in my behavior.
She has also been a good sport about all of this. Since I get up most days, weekends included, at 4 a.m., we rarely go anywhere that keeps me up past 10 p.m. And the worst thing that can happen is that you invite people to dinner, knowing they may want to linger until, uh, 10:30 or later. Mary on the other hand has some really well-adjusted friends who like to go to events, parties, plays like normal people. Thankfully I finally learned how to work the remote control for our TV. And our dog appears to enjoy my company.
I’m not anti-social, far from it. Consider almost any New Year’s Day from years past. My friends who I met through running – Walter, Jerry, Matt, Joe, Ziggy, Carol and a host of others – would meet very early at Walter’s place in Barberton. We’d run four or five miles – even in the days before global warming. Then we would toast the new year with orange juice and Champagne. None of us were ever awake at midnight for this ritual.
We don’t do that any more. Many have moved from the area. Some prefer to run now – or more likely bike — when the sun is actually shining. Some have reached the age – as I guess we all will – when running just isn’t all that much fun any more, or it’s too hard physically to get out there most days. Men’s senior tennis anyone? As you get older, the road gets both longer and shorter. (I included that last line primarily for the poets who read this blog. I’m trying in my writing to be more lyrical.)
So, guys, thanks for so many great runs, conversations and memories. I thought about all of you a lot as I was out there this morning. And I’m going to talk in this blog throughout the year about some of our runs – and share with others some of my memories about the friendships I’ve been fortunate enough to make on the run.
And maybe there is a public relations lesson here as well. PR is about relationships – in the long run. As a group of runners, we really didn’t have a lot in common, particularly in the early days. We were of different ages and backgrounds. We had vastly different jobs, views on politics and social issues, sports and just about anything else you could name. But we talked as we ran – and we had great conversations. We didn’t always agree. But over the years we developed solid relationships based on trust, honesty, fairness and empathy – and civility.
Too bad as public relations pros we can’t replicate that with employees, customers, shareholders, students, reporters, etc. I’ll bet if we could, our employers and clients would benefit and public relations as a profession would be held in much higher regard.
I agree that social media, Web 2.0 and all the new technologies are great tactical advances. But I’m not sure that the new technology will help us create the relationships that we need with people inside and outside our organizations. It may, in fact, do just the opposite. Does anyone actually pick up the phone and talk to a reporter these days? Do CEOs and college presidents still meet and talk face-to-face with employees, faculty and students? I hope so. But it’s hard to tell. I don’t see many in the blogosphere talking about those kind of things these days. Maybe over time I’ll be able here in some very small way to help spark an ongoing conversation about the role of what I’ll call traditional face-to-face tactics in public relations versus the new tactics related to social media and Web 2.0. We’ll see.
Oh, and Mary. You know I don’t make resolutions. I have enough trouble remembering what you have asked me to get at the store. But I’m determined to be more flexible with my schedule this year.
Would 10:15 p.m. as a curfew be OK?
Also, Mary seems to be warming up to this new activity of mine, blogging. Just yesterday I was in my office at home searching for some obscure Web site. She yelled enthusiastically: “C’mon. We have to go. What the hell are you doing up there.”
So it goes.
Photo of me completing the Columbus Marathon in October 1985.