PR, your friendly mentor

Trust and Control seem to be two major concepts that are affecting PR in a variety of fashions. Trust is defined (in part) on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as:

1 a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b : one in which confidence is placed
2 a : dependence on something future or contingent

Control is defined (in part) by the M-W as:

1 a : an act or instance of controlling; also : power or authority to guide or manage b : skill in the use of a tool, instrument, technique, or artistic medium

My favorite part of this ongoing process is how correlated these two variables are. It seems that when control is relaxed, trust goes up. I don’t have any empirical research to back that up as of yet, but call it a thesis statement. Is there implied causality? I wouldn’t presume to indicate that, but it is possible.

This was noted in some of the links above, but I want to point out that the first two definitions of the word “control” as shown above do not carry the weight I think a lot of us attribute to the word “control.” Many of us have negative connotations of the word. It is somehow a bad thing to have control as if it were dominance or supremacy, which I think we would agree do carry the stereotypes we would expect our organizations not to have. But the definition above refers to guidance, management, and having skill in a particular medium. Isn’t that what we’d like public relations to be? Skill to foster and maintain relationships? Skill to guide and manage our clients and organizations? Sounds a lot like a welcome mentor, to me.

I’m stretching the boundaries of what people refer to when they say “let go of control” I am aware of that. And I do agree that – as communicators – we need to embrace the discussion, soak in the conversations, and quit talking at people. I’m on board. But we should let go while retaining a tendril of guidance or a wisp of mentoring. And we should do it with full disclosure, completely transparent. Then we’ll see a lot more trust, upon which relationships are built.


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