Public Relations: Chock-Full of Arbitrary Job Titles

A few days ago I went to the doctor for a routine check-up. As I sat uneasily on that thin, crinkly paper that’s tasked with protecting me from wayward germs, the physician assistant asked me a string of questions about who I was.

They were just a routine set of questions about my medical history, my family’s medical history, etc.; but then she asked me about my career.

“What do you do for a living?” she asked with her head bent down to her clipboard – absent of any interest.

“I work in public relations,” I replied with rivaling indifference.

But then came the unexpected. Her eyes lifted and her face contorted as a quizzical look seized control of every muscle in her head.

“So what does that make you. . . a Public Relator?”

Her confused words hung awkwardly in the air. Her response seemed ridiculous – and yet I couldn’t think of a better answer. The paper beneath me crackled as if to break the uncomfortable silence and relieve some of the tension.

“I guess, I’m a communicator,” I said; the words falling gracelessly out of my mouth.

Satisfied with my answer, she scribbled on the clipboard as her facial features returned to their default settings.

So that’s how I came to be known as “The Communicator” (Schwarzenegger voice optional), at my new doctor’s office.

But that’s not really the point of my story. The real issue is that as PR pros, we really don’t have one name or title to call our own.

During my drive home, I couldn’t help but think of some of the other responses that I could have given to my new physician assistant friend; and a few reasons why I decided that calling myself a communicator was the best option.

I could have said…

I’m a “Strategic Communications Specialist”

Translation: I’m a pompous dork with an inflated sense of self worth.

I’m a “PR Counselor”

This title should be reserved for those who help treat PR pros suffering from severe psychiatric disorders caused by years of client pressure to pitch meaningless stories under embargo to journalists who always seem to have just enough time to tell you why you ruined their day – but who are always too busy when you actually do have a great story.

I’m a “PR Practitioner”

I need 20 DMAs with the highest readership of the WSJ, stat!

I’m a “Public Relations Officer”

This would be fitting if I had a badge and got to barge into clients’ homes and say things like, “ma’am, we received a call from one of your neighbors saying that you wanted to be on Oprah; mind if we come in and have a look around?”

I’m a “PR Specialist”

This title is just plain misleading. In order to be a “specialist” you need to devote yourself to one subject or to a particular branch of a subject or pursuit. As PR pros, we’re required to be adept in a wide range of skills and knowledgeable across a diverse set of industries. The concept of “specialty” is antithetical to the varied and volatile nature of what we do.

So in the end, I think I’ll stick with “Communicator.” After all, effective communication is at the foundation of everything that we do.

You may also like

Leave a comment