Public relations ‘luminary’ visits School of Communications

Fraser P. Seitel, author of “The Practice of Public Relations,” presented an Oct. 27 lecture, examining topics related to public relations, including industry misconceptions, expected skills and recent gaffes.

Renown communications professional Fraser P. Seitel speaks to students on Oct. 27 during a lecture in McEwen Communications Building.
​Fraser P. Seitel, a widely recognized communications professional and author, visited the School of Communications, delivering an Oct. 27 lecture titled “The Public Relations Profession Today: What It Takes To Be Successful.” Approximately 70 students attended the address in McEwen’s theater, gaining insights into the strategic communications profession from one of PR Week’s “100 Most Distinguished Public Relations Professionals of the 20th Century.”

A public relations consultant, author, lecturer and media commentator, Seitel is likely best known for his textbook “The Practice of Public Relations,” which has sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide. Its 13th edition will be released in 2016.

During his hour-long lecture, the PR veteran explored a variety of topics relating to his industry, including reputation management, misconceptions and misunderstandings of the field, and the skills and attitudes needed to succeed. Additionally, he touched on recent public relations gaffes and successes, examining the missteps of Volkswagen as well as the PR homeruns of CVS pharmacy and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Borrowing the Public Relations Society of America’s definition of public relations, Seitel explained that the industry is about “building mutually beneficial relationships.” He also emphasized to the student audience a need to not only communication effectively, but also ethically. Success shouldn’t come at the expense of working for a company or client you’re not proud of, he explained.

“If you work for somebody in public relations, don’t work for somebody you don’t like,” he said, noting that PR professionals should be advocates for their respective companies.

“Do you need to be a cheerleader? Yes,” Seitel said, answering his own question. “You have to believe.”

Associate Dean Kenn Gaither called Seitel (pictured) “a true luminary in the field of public relations.”
​Seitel advised students to master and leverage social media because it should be one of their strengths, and they will likely understand it – and use it – far better than their workplace counterparts. “Social media is your sweet spot,” he said.

Kenn Gaither, associate dean of the School of Communications, provided an introduction for the lecture and called Seitel “a true luminary in the field of public relations.”

“It’s not often that we have the opportunity to really interact with a legend, and he is a legend,” added Gaither.

In addition to his popular textbook, Seitel teamed with John Doorley, visiting associate professor of communications, to publish the 2012 book “Rethinking Reputation.” In October, named the text one of five “Must Reads for PR Professionals.”  

Previously, Seitel served as senior vice president and director of public affairs for The Chase Manhattan Bank until he formed Emerald Partners in 1992. Among his firm’s clients are several hospitals he advises on reputation and crisis management. He taught for 10 years with Doorley in the M.S. In Public Relations & Corporate Communication program at New York University.

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