What IS Public Relations?

Aug 14, 2017


Public Relations. You’ve heard it used in sentences like “that’s a PR nightmare” or “that’s some good PR right there” and “that’s just a PR stunt,” but do you really know what PR is? Public Relations is an elusive term that even some of the most seasoned practitioners have a hard time explaining to those on the outside. To help provide some clarification, we've answered to three of the most commonly asked questions.

Q: What is Public Relations?

A: According to the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) the official definition is

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

In layman’s terms? Public relations is the creation and/or maintenance of both public perception and customer relationships with brands, corporations, even people.

So how is this achieved? Within PR firms and corporate communications offices, there are host of different strategies that help create and achieve whatever the end goal may be. These include but aren't limited to: media relations, crisis communication, social media (or digital), and media training. Each of these strategies have a very specific job within the overall plan.

For example, a media relations strategy develops and maintains positive relationships between the organization and the media. A crisis communications strategy, on the other hand, includes tactics that protect the organization's image and/or relationship with both the media and the public from any potentially damaging situations or claims. No matter the strategy , the main objective is to promote, protect, and maintain the organization's public image.

Q: How does PR work?

A: There are many different ways that public relations can be employed to help a company or individual with their goals. The most important takeaway is that media coverage is earned, not paid. Therefore, it is important for anyone working within the PR industry to have a large network of connections and knowledge regarding the best journalist or publication to pitch a story, event, or interview.

So how do PR firms do this? Some of the most commonly used methods used to generate positive buzz are press releases, special events, social media campaigns, and content development. Regardless the tactic, the idea is to have a tailored approach based on the desired outcome.

For example, if a large nonprofit is hosting a charity event to raise money, a public relations firm may want to write and distribute a press release, invite appropriate people from the media to attend, and promote the event on the organization's social channels by sharing creative content to showcase any speakers, special guests, and other highlights to get people excited about the event. Combined, these tactics will help generate buzz and hopefully lead to traditional media outlets covering the event.

Q: What is the difference between PR and Marketing or Advertising?

A: One of the most defining differences between public relations, marketing, and advertising is how media coverage is gained. Media coverage gained through the use of PR tactics is earned, not paid. Because of that, PR coverage is a more trusted source, and builds a better relationship between a brand and its public. 

Consider the difference between paying for an ad in a national magazine or newspaper, versus getting an article written about you or your company. The average reader is more likely to read the article than they are to look at the ad inserted into one of the pages, and they are more likely to trust the information shared in the article.

PR is a complicated and continually changing industry. However, when done well, a public relations campaign can change the way people see an organization, build credibility, and, ultimately, motivate people to take an action whether that is buying a product or service, making a donation, or joining a cause.

Have questions about what PR could do for your organization? Contact us for a consultation.


Category: Public Relations

Wright Brianna


Brianna is a Communications undergraduate student in her final semester at the University of Colorado where she is also working toward a certificate in Strategic Communications. She enjoys learning about new topics, from data analytics to event planning to social media trends. In her free time, she loves summer camping trips with her horse and dog in tow; baseball games; DIY home projects; and traveling as far and long as her wallet will allow.

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