It is not who you are that matters, but what people think you are. -- Attributed to Joseph P. Kennedy, advice to his children
Although not about public relations per se, Kennedy's comment is certainly indicative of the predominant cultural view of public relations prevalent in our society. Image over substance, style over content, looking good over being good. It is a cynical view, a view that is not always, or even usually, accurate. It is a view, however, that is perpetuated by what we do as well as by what we do not do.
Actions versus image? Good deeds versus glowing words? Manipulation versus caring? Perception versus reality? We so often treat these as polarized concepts, pairs of competing realities that anchor either end of a continuum. The purpose of this book is to examine how the range of perceptions on the continuum is reflected in the decision making apparatus of modern organizations. In this chapter, I present the basic assumptions that guide my understanding of organizational public relations, both what it is and what it could be. These nine assumptions form the foundation on which we build our understanding of the intersection of organizational decision making and public relations. As a means of beginning, I offer three case studies.