• Views July 13, 2017

Many people are born with a desire to serve society, so it comes as no surprise to see that 81 percent of public relations (PR) students interviewed for the 2017 Global Communications Report agree that it is important to work in an industry with a well-defined purpose.

In addition, a further 84 percent agree that it is important to work for a company with a well-defined social purpose.

As infants, we heard tales of men and women who changed the world, making it a better place for the generations to come; whether they were historical figures from a history class, or heroes in movies, novels or comic books. Most people see issues in society and want to be the ones to make a change. However, we live in a world where our time is dominated by work, leaving us with little time to pursue activism and seek – or even lead – the changes we want in society. By working for a company with a clear social purpose, we can hit two birds with one stone; having a social purpose enables us to be more passionate about our work. Regardless of how significant or menial the task, it allows us to see the bigger picture and motivates us to bring a positive change in society.

Despite the report revealing that 81 percent of respondents want a job that will make a positive difference to society, only half of those believe that’s true in PR jobs. From the perception of PR in the media, down to the historic use of PR as ‘propaganda,’ every time I hear the words ‘public relations’ mentioned in a movie or TV series, it would often be in relation to a cover up or some sort of scandal; this has only misinformed the masses as to the role PR plays for companies. In fact, a good PR strategy can build credibility for businesses by making them a thought leader in the industry, which can often result in lead generation for marketing teams and, ultimately, increased profits. It can also build a positive image for companies, which is an invaluable asset in itself!

The question is: can PR be used to make a positive impact in society? And, if so, does a career in PR serve society for the better? Like all tools, it depends on how it's used, and, like all careers, you have the freedom to work for whichever organisation, agency and/or clients you want and, thus, be a part of its social purpose. For example, as someone who personally desires a strong social purpose to feel more actively engaged in my work, I see the work I do for my clients as a step toward doing something for the benefit of society at large – be it through the IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) promotion of technological advancement for the benefit of humanity or by defending the Earth’s resources through my work with the NRDC (National Resource Defence Council). Personally, I believe PR can serve society for the better. However, a career in PR is a bit like wearing a shirt; it comes in an incredible variety and range of styles, and although some brands, designs and styles may not work for you, it’s all about what suits you.

The 2017 Global Communications Report can be found here.