I love a trade show. It's the one place I can go where beautiful women warmly take my hand and shower me with attention. The wonderful glow lasts about 30 seconds 'til the booth bunnies learn I'm just a PR guy. Then they look like they've stepped in something unpleasant.
To many, PR is a reviled profession. "Flaks" are seen as liars and con artists who will say whatever they're paid to, and avoid the truth at all costs if it compromises a client. Unfortunately, that characterization fits in some instances. Witness the ludicrous statements and flat-out lies that emanate from press officers representing the highest offices and biggest corporations in the land. But these folk don't represent the majority.
PR people perform a vital function. We are the "middle men" who represent the world's leaders to those who report on them. Part artist, part researcher and part salesperson, a good PR person has the skills to craft a good story from raw information, match it to the right journalist, and sell it into a public venue. The best have an innate ability to discern great stories that "sell themselves" on merit, and to shelve news that is second-tier. Some will go so far as to tell a journalist, "Honestly, this story is not that big a deal." When they come back later with a hot item, the reporter knows it's for real.
One of the nicest compliments I ever received came from Mike Mills, the former telecom beat reporter for The Washington Post. I'd just launched my agency and asked Mike to be a reference for a potential client. Asked about my credentials, Mike simply said:
"The thing about Jim is -- when he calls I know it's important."
I try to live up to that assessment every day. It helps me look clients, reporters and even booth bunnies straight in the eye.