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Publics: The Heart of the Business

The development of new technologies such as the iPad mini has provided communications professionals with modern and innovative channels to reach their publics. These gadgets have helped enhance the profession and solidify the role of public relations practitioners as top tier. Professionals are neither limited nor confined to the radio, television or newspaper.

However, according to Jack Martin, Global Chairman and CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, PR pros must beware of chasing gadgets.

“We must not lose our publics in this sea of gadgets,” said Martin.

Martin, a 40-year veteran within the political and public relations sphere, was the keynote speaker at the Fifth Annual Grunig Lecture hosted at the University of Maryland. He delivered a lecture on the democratization of data and focused on the use of measurements and research to communicate effectively with desired publics.

“Our clients are our most important constituents,” said Martin.

The Weight of Measurement

Martin’s journey to becoming an industry leader was rather unorthodox. Belonging to a culture of farmers and ranchers, he chose to enter politics instead, where he first discovered the concept of measurements.

“The most important people we had to understand were our publics, so we used measurements to understand them,” said Martin.

Measurements are tools to gaging public thought and interests. Examples include social media metrics, such as monitoring the number of visitors to a website, and research and data insight.

Martin’s avant-garde philosophy about the relationship between measurements and the publics led him to prosper within the communications consultancy field when he merged his firm, Public Strategies, Inc., with Hill + Knowlton.

The merge provided Knowlton with an even stronger platform to accomplish his dreams of interacting with the publics, he said.

The Fifth Seat

Surrounded by communications professionals and aspiring students, Martin stressed the importance of the industry through his “Fifth Seat” philosophy.

This philosophy holds that CEOs routinely rely on four key advisors – legal counselors, bankers, accountants and management consultants – when making critical decisions, but now must accommodate a fifth seat for practitioners, who work with the organization’s stakeholders.

Acknowledging the changing structures of the PR industry, Martin said that publics matter now more than ever and it is up to professionals to provide them with wisdom.

Pushing the Envelope

In his conclusion, Martin refers back to his warning about gadgets.

“When the business becomes a commodity,” said Martin, “it becomes less about wisdom, the publics and being the Fifth Seat.”

To the eager ears of the audience, Martin leaves a piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to push the envelope.”

To view the full Lecture, click here.

Stephanie Tran is a candidate for B.A. in Communication from the University of Maryland.

3 Comments

  1. Cabrina McLain — December 20th, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Great article Ms. Tran!

  2. Elke Tullett — January 9th, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Interesting article but let down by the awful corporate cliche at the end “Push the envelope”. Outdated and makes me shudder! Sorry

  3. Dario Paolini — January 18th, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I’m sorry, but Martin’s quote, “We must not lose our publics in this sea of gadgets,” is typical of a laggard, resistant to change and afraid to embrace technology. It wreaks of fear and is a shame that people are being influenced by this.

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