Connecting people with ideas & proven concepts for success

Engaging audiences – the message and the medium

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Note: This is the second in a series of posts about the relationship between the disciplines of public relations and interpretation.

Engaging audiences where they are is the key to successful communications.

Today, audiences are everywhere – and they’re generally not content to simply watch or listen. Engaging constituencies is more than a back and forth converstation; it’s non-linear, with many people participating.

Instead of only chasing new technologies, perhaps we as professional communicators would do well to also study the work of Freeman Tilden as a guideline for utlizing any communications tool.

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the discipline of interpretation which, as defined by the National Association for Interpretation, is this:

Interpretation is a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource.

Forging emotional and intellectual connections. Sounds a little like “engaging hearts and minds,” doesn’t it?

In studying and practicing these concepts as part of several successful public relations campaigns, I’ve often thought that the fusion of interpretation and public relations could be a powerful field of study and practice. In fact, I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t already seen a connection between the two disciplines.

One Saturday morning I was reviewing Tilden’s masterpiece Interpreting our Heritage and, for some reason, decided to thumb through R. Bruce Craig’s forward to the 50th anniversary edition of my fairly-worn copy. I knew that Tilden had been a journalist and a fiction writer. A careful read of the bio revealed this:

  • In 1941 Tilden – then in his late 50’s – approached the National Park Service about a writing position. He was hired to fill a public relations role.

[Newton] Drury [then-director National Park Service] knighted Tilden with the title ‘administrative assistant’ and gave him carte blanche to roam the National Park System. His charge: to formulate a plan for public relations and interpretation. [emphasis mine]

Tilden didn’t invent the concept of interpretation but through his public relations work with the National Park Service, he certainly “provided substance to the craft,” as described by R. Bruce Craig.

In future posts, we’ll take a closer look at the 6 principles of interpretation as outlined in Tilden’s timeless work. 

By using these principles, professional communicators will become more adept at forging intellectual and emotional connections with audiences across every available platform. Isn’t that the objective? To meet and engage audiences where they are?


Social Networking Averts a Disaster — A True Facebook Story

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The following story really happened at the PRSA/SPJ holiday party the other night. I’m changing the names of the participants so as not to reveal too much information about nights out at Fayetteville bistros.

As the evening at the party room was coming to a close – and as one contingent was contemplating a move to the next venue – the waiter told us that Zephyr had left her debit card at the cash register. Zephyr had departed the gathering about an hour earlier and apparently was unaware of her oversight. So we looked among ourselves and wondered if anyone had Zephyr’s phone number. No one did. What to do?

Our friend Zinfandel knew exactly what to do. She pulled out her iPhone, not to make a phone call, but to go to her Facebook page. Zinfandel and Zephyr are Facebook friends, so Zinfandel simply wrote on Zephyr’s wall that she had the debit card and would be glad to arrange a handover the next day.

Later that night, Zephyr logged onto her Facebook page and saw the message. She responded on Zinfandel’s wall, thanking her and telling her where they could meet the next day to turn over the debit card. Another Facebook miracle.

Written by daveedmark

December 5, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Social Networking in Plain English

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There is a video online that explains in less than two minutes how and why social media exist. Interestingly enough, I was alerted to it on my Facebook site where it popped up after being linked by a fellow in Chattanooga whom I haven’t even seen since he moved away from here about 20 years ago. So the system is the solution, or something to that effect.

tlw update: embeds youtube link

Written by daveedmark

December 5, 2008 at 10:54 am


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Jason Kintzler has a built a really interesting community of social media PR types in a ning environment at   1150 members as of this writing.

Written by Ed Nicholson

December 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm

Introducing a pioneering communicator

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Note: This is the first in a series of posts about the relationship between the disciplines of public relations and interpretation.

Have you ever heard of this man?

Freeman Tilden.

In the coming weeks I’d like to connect communicators with Tilden.

A few years ago a friend introduced me to Tilden and his work. I’ve used the concepts he pioneered and have been amazed at how quickly the principles this man developed decades ago can engage audiences and motivate them to act.

My next post – a brief introduction to historical interpretation and how the discipline is closely related to the practice of public relations.

Written by Tracy Winchell

December 4, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Public relations more important than ever?

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In the old days (24 months ago) a well-managed small retail business could invest in a frequent and consistent advertising campaign aimed at key prospects (or a killer location). With a good business plan and lots of hard work, the enterprise could – in time – probably generate enough customers to turn a profit.

Now, consumers have more power than ever, but are generally spending less money. They’re carefully choosing their financial transactions – even when, where, and how often to purchase a tall latte.

Businesses are competing for fewer customers who will consistently spend more money. A loyal clientele these days may be more coveted than high traffic volume.

Seth Godin wrote on his blog this week:

When you find a service or establishment or product that gives you joy, it’s tempting to keep it to yourself. Perhaps it’s uncomfortable to recommend it to a friend (after all, you might seem silly) and even more uncomfortable to recommend it to a stranger (after all, you might seem like a shill).

Godin is specifically addressing the consumer side of using communications to support a favorite business. But what if we – as public relations professionals – could help a business understand the necessity for creating a consistent experience for the customer? So that the client is so excited and enthused about the service or product that he or she can’t help but run out the door raving about the company and how whatever it does is either life-changing, enjoyable, affordable, or essential.

At every level of business – marketing, financing, managing, procuring, servicing – is a common thread. Communications.

Could it be that public relations is the key to connecting all of these elements and helping a business thrive?

Comments? Please.

Written by Tracy Winchell

December 3, 2008 at 9:07 pm