Seeking an ideal symbol for public relations

If there’s a more recognized corporate symbol than the Goodyear blimp, I can’t think of it. But since I live just a few miles from Blimp Base #1, maybe I’m biased.

Symbols communicate powerful messages, and the best ones are instantly recognized. Another of my favorites is the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Or if you’d prefer a hamburger, try Ronald McDonald. The St. Louis Arch celebrates a city that served as the gateway to the American West — as beautiful as it is iconic.

We all know there’s value in these icons, and that value transcends marketing. The Goodyear blimp is a piece of Americana.


Which leads me to my question: What’s an appropriate symbol for public relations — the defining visual that says “Here’s what we are”?

If you were building a website for your PR firm, what would you use as the dominant graphic? When we built the site for Kent State’s new Online PR Master’s, we chose a professional, on-the-go, 30ish female as the primary visual. Fitting for our demographic, but does it say “PR”?

Most brochures and websites highlight people doing PR work. They’re pounding on keyboards, talking on smart phones, meeting with clients — and always, always smiling. Beautiful people. Boring images.

To make matters worse, we save our clients money by using stock photos that everyone knows are stock photos. But since the images communicate so little, does it matter if they’re canned?

Also from a Google image search of “public relations.” Bleh!

Most white-collar professional use the same office tools. So we all look alike at work. I’ve always envied the companies that mine coal, build ships, cut timber or demolish buildings. Their images are colorful and attention-grabbing. And the meaning in those images is self-evident. No captions required.


I’m on a mission to find the perfect PR icon. Do you have ideas for a photo or symbol that exemplifies what this business is all about? Or am I chasing my tail here, trying to capture in a single image of a profession that can’t even define itself?

Unlike much of what I post on this blog, I’m serious this time. So don’t suggest genies emerging from lamps or alchemists in gray flannel suits. And no flying pigs, thank you very much.

I’m searching for the Goodyear blimp of public relations. Help me find it!

13 thoughts on “Seeking an ideal symbol for public relations

  1. A coffee cup brimming with coffee.

    It is the internaitonal symbol of goodwill, something you share with trusted friends. In some cultures it’s a sacred bond.

    It is something you need to calm down or to generate excitement and energy. It is cool on the outside even when it is very hot on the inside.

    Whether you are rich or poor, corporate or community, a cup of coffee can bring people together and enable conversations. It may not be right in the middle of the deal, the sale or the contract negotiatino, but it’s always at the table.

    Not quite the Goodyear Blimp, but it’s a shot : )

  2. Thanks, Mark. Something told me this post wasn’t gonna work. But I had to try.

    I like the coffee symbolism, but as an icon it says Starbucks, not PR. But maybe the marketers can use it. After all, coffee creates a real buzz!

    And maybe I need some myself. When it comes to blogging lately, I just ain’t feelin’ it.

  3. Not everyone likes coffee 🙁 . Actually it could be understood wrongly in terms of artifically enhancing your concentration or even workin skills. What about a light bulb ? A nicely made graphic of a yellow shing bulb – an international and easily understandable icon for a positive moment ….. an idea. Loved reading your thoughts.

  4. I always thought the anvil. As in PRSA’s silver anvil award. They use the anvil as a symbol of forging public perception. To me, that’s it.

  5. the anvil. As in PRSA’s silver anvil award. They use the anvil as a symbol of forging public perception. To me, that’s it.

  6. Say, even though all these comments are from way-back-when, they are helping me in my search for a symbol that speaks PR for the right purpose.

  7. Glad to hear this, Dana. I’ve pretty much abandoned this site, but now that I’ve retired I’m looking for a way to repurpose it. Ideas welcome.

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