Without question, one of the most ambitious public figures over the past 150 years was Winston Churchill. From his years as a young man to when he assumed the reigns of England before and during World War II, Churchill believed in his greatest. He saw at his destiny and, consequently, conducted himself in ways to draw attention to himself so that others would see what he saw in himself. In his rise to national and international renown, Churchill was heard to say the world was largely divided into two kind of folks: actors and critics. He very much saw himself as an actor for it was they who generated attention.
Taking a cue from England's former Prime Minister, how would one characterized public relations professionals? Actors or critics? From my perspective, I largely see them as being both. These communicators are actors but largely the behind-the-scenes variety. Generally, they seek to control all elements of stage management, including script writing and directing the key players on stage. Much of this is acting in that they strive to determine the words and actions of others toward a result that they and their clients have envisioned. This kind of acting is often difficult because their ability to control is limited.
This leads us that other category: critics. Clearly, public relations professionals are more critic than actor. They bring together key players, such as a client, and strive to create a particular image of that person or product that will be well received by the general public. This involves being a tough critic because often clients have their own set of limits, too, that can only be stretched so far. Their role as critic is not to be taken lightly any more than what the actor does in their effort to be credible. While "actor" and "critic" do capture the role of the public relations professional, perhaps a better descriptive, with apologies to Churchill, would be "choreographer."