Art or Science? Raise the question and break the shackles

Where do we find value in public relations? In its artistry – the crafted word, the creative inspiration, the intricate network of relationships, personal interaction and influence?  Or in its science – the analysis, careful research and detailed observation that provides insight into an organisation and its stakeholders? As practitioners, we are called to account to demonstrate the worth and value of what we do, yet sometimes explaining the nature of our work can seem tantalisingly out of reach.

There is without doubt an art to creating imaginative and compelling communication that can warn of danger, generate deeper understanding or stimulate economic activity. Equally, painstaking research, considered analysis, combined with sciences such as anthropology and psychology inform the development of strategic plans.

Part of the challenge may be identifying whether your organisation needs the ground-breaking artistry of a Dali, that helps everyone see the world in a different way or the philosophical thinking of an Einstein, creating a cornucopia of solutions that not only lead people to see the world differently, they change the world in the process.

At this year’s PRINZ Conference in Rotorua, this question of ‘PR – Art or Science’ is under the microscope. Delegates will be able to explore the perspectives and experiences of others from inside and outside the world of public relations and communication management and leave with perhaps a new methodology for demonstrating the value of public relations within their organisation – and get a serious creative boost.

Sorting out some old journals I remembered this particular Einstein essay in which he says:

“The most beautiful experience we have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that sits at the cradle of true art and true science”.

There’s no doubt that some find public relations more than a little mysterious, and one reasonable view might be that our profession actually stands somewhere in between art and science but, if we are to progress, we need to examine where we are now and where we head next.  Again, from Einstein:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”.

So in Rotorua, both sides of the question will be explored through case studies, examples, and a stunning view from Sir Paul Callaghan, eminent scientist and New Zealander of the Year. There will be practice insights from international experts Toni Muzi Falconi and Jesse Desjardins, social media insights from, among others, YouTube’s Annie Baxter and political insights from Jacinda Arden and Simon Bridges.

It’s tempting in these difficult times to forget or sideline the importance of learning, especially when making the time to stop, learn, reflect and share seems impossible. One challenge before us is that public relations and communication management demands a wide range of skills and a breadth of understanding when it comes to the big questions and demonstrating the value of what we do. Tackling this will, no doubt, require an adjustment of vision and – balancing the scales by drawing on one of Dali’s pithy observations:

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision”.

It’s easy in the day-to-day of things to become shackled to a particular method of operation or point of view. The 2011 PRINZ Conference will provide a forum for members and non-members alike to think, learn, recharge, renew their approach to practice and determine a vision of ‘where next’. Value indeed – for delegates, their organisations and the profession itself.

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