National Football League fans, commentators and players were outraged up until a few days ago that the league and its Referees Association couldn’t reach an agreement. This dispute had resulted in replacement referees taking the field, botching calls and, in some cases, changing critical game outcomes.
Some in the industry assumed that many people wouldn’t care (or even notice) that replacement referees had stepped in – the assumption being that football fans are focused on their teams and their star players and, frankly, will complain about officiating no matter who’s on the field making the calls. But the outcry underscored the value of the trained refs, and gave them fresh leverage to negotiate a new eight-year agreement.
You’ve really got to give it to referees and anyone in a position to officiate. They must:
· Observe and analyze everything they see – whether behind, in front of and ahead of them – in real time.
· Ensure that participants from all sides cooperate and play fairly.
· Confer and then announce what they feel are the right calls, even when they know those calls may not go over well with the crowd.
· Report on incidents which will immediately excite one side, but incite the other.
Hmm…these responsibilities sure sound familiar to anyone in public relations, don’t they?
I’m just having a little fun, and this is by no means a perfect metaphor. But it is always amusing to find unexpected parallels in other industries. Even funnier are the variety of professions we can (in many ways, rightly so) be compared to. Here are just a few:
· Teachers – We’ve got to educate ourselves on industry news, educate clients on the media landscape, bring reporters up to speed…and sometimes, as my colleague Meredith says, use our “teacher voice” to get everyone to pay attention and on task during meetings!
· Attorneys – Who among us (including when we’re wrangling with Legal over press release wordings), hasn’t challenged their inner-attorney to make a persuasive “case” for our intended audience, or had the deep desire to protect our clients in every situation?
· Diplomats / Politicians – There is a bit of the Jekyll / Hyde here. On one hand, people think of us as diplomats who can help them navigate challenges gracefully and with poise at all times. Then there are those who cast public relations professionals as politicians gone to the dark side, only focused on staying on messages or “spinning” the story.
· Poets – Presenting our clients’ insights and news to the critical audiences, we must make the words jump off the page and entice the reader to go on.
I won’t even get into some of the other jobs we take on to get our work done (ahem, travel agents, performers, bouncers, wardrobe consultants, event planners or even therapists). I’m certainly not complaining. I’ve been at this for almost 10 years, and I love what I do!
I’m sure this multi-faceted set of skills isn’t unique to public relations – it goes to show how exciting and diverse the world of client services can be. So this Sunday, come game time, I’ll be raising a glass to those referees for proving their worth…along with all of the other unsung client / public service-facing all-stars who do it day-in and day-out. Play ball!