A little over a month has gone by since I took on the role of PR chap at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and I think I’m finally starting to get a better understanding of what rheumatoid arthritis actually is. Although in all honesty my knowledge to begin with was basically zero so even just learning to spell rheumatoid constitutes a better understanding. Still lots to learn!
I certainly don’t think I was alone in having a limited knowledge. I might be wrong but I suspect it was no worse than the vast bulk of the population. When I told people I was joining NRAS, many of my friends assumed I was joining the National Rifle Association (possibly some linkage there from my old MoD days). These issues combined are perhaps the biggest challenge we face – very few people know what RA really is or who NRAS are. We need to raise the awareness of both, so hopefully a bit of effective PR can help achieve that.
But what exactly is PR?
If you are looking to buy a new car and the dealer tells you that the nice shiny red car in front of you is the car of your dreams, that is advertising. Advertising is what you say about yourself and the service you provide.
If the dealer tells you that based on your profile you need a nice shiny red car and the one in front of you is the very car, that is marketing. Marketing is looking at what people want or need and then satisfying that desire.
If you walk into the dealership and tell the dealer that you’ve heard he has the nicest, shiniest, reddest car and you must have it, that is the result of public relations. While advertising relates to what you say about yourself, public relations is managing what other people say about you. Okay, so to be more accurate public relations is ‘trying’ to manage what others are saying, of course there are no guarantees.
The purpose of PR is to inform, educate, persuade and encourage discussion.
It was great to see so many NRAS volunteers at the Coordinators Conference and although I didn’t speak to everyone I did get to hear a lot of individual stories that are filled with inspiration and encouragement. We have some amazing stories to tell; stories that will inform, educate, persuade and encourage discussion. Unfortunately it seems that many of these stories often go unheard.
Hopefully this is something we can change soon.
In the meantime the big story is that our intrepid adventurer is fast approaching the end of his journey. After nearly 100 days covering 2600 miles, Dr Martin Lee will be paddling into the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre (London, SE16 7SX) on Friday 6th July at 2pm. Do come along and support him if you are available. You can be kept up-to-date on his travels by visiting his website at martinkayaking.co.uk.