It’s All About Relationships

Shimon Cohen

Building and maintaining positive relationships lies at the heart of PR.

Let me take you back to the beginning of 1990s. I had started working in a leading Public Relations company. One of my first projects was to support the PR team at a bustling annual general meeting of one of Britain’s largest industrial conglomerates at the time, the General Electric Company (GEC).

The GEC was Britain’s largest private employer, a titan of industry. During the 90s, the GEC was at its peak, bringing in profits of over £1 billion a year. Its chairman was the former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Lord Pryor. Its Chief Executive was the legendary industrialist, Lord Arnold Weinstock. This pair were perhaps the most important British businessmen at the time.

Being a recent joiner to the PR firm, my job was to simply collect the list of media outlets who wanted interviews with these leading figures. All the prestigious, national papers flooded in with requests, eager for the opportunity to feature Lords Pryor and Weinstock. The humble East Sussex Gazette also asked for an interview.

I compiled the list and dutifully brought it to Lord Weinstock so he could choose which interviews he would undertake. He scanned the list taking note of all the tier one titles, media of national and international renown, and then his eyes came to the East Sussex Gazette. Lord Weinstock turned to me and declared that he wants to sit down with them today. I was shocked. Our schedule was tight, the time for these interviews extremely limited. Why focus on such a small, local paper? Lord Weinstock responded with words that ring in their pragmatic wisdom decades later, “Never underestimate anyone, my boy; when the editor of this gazette is the editor of the Financial Times, he will remember me.

That quip taught me the importance of building relationships, be it with the media, politicians, community members, or businessmen. Lord Weinstock was right: afford time to everyone when you can and be warm and welcoming where appropriate. All the connections one creates can prove helpful and supportive; people will remember you in the future, and one certainly does not want to create any enemies.

Yet, there is more to this principle than mere usefulness. In PR, as in any industry, and in fact in life in general, the way one conducts oneself matters immensely. Treating everyone with respect, showing a genuine interest in the affairs of others, and showing appreciation where due builds our characters and image. At the very least, we want others to view us in the way we see ourselves. The relationships we forge navigating our lives should be positive because all of us are entitled to respect and dignity, no one, as Lord Weinstock thought, should be underestimated.

At the heart of PR lies this human truth: the need to maintain positive relationships with all. Over decades, I am proud that PRO has built strong relationships with our clients and in turn with the media, enabling us to properly project our clients to the public. With all the firms we work with, be it international airlines or family offices, we have constantly impressed upon them the need to maintain strong ties with all their stakeholders, their relationships filled with an air of respect and mutuality. Those words I heard so early on in my career have proved invaluable throughout. Relationships are at the heart of all we do.

Shimon Cohen is the chairman of The PR Office.

About the Author: Drew Salisbury