Public Relations, often abbreviated as PR, is an industry that frequently finds itself misunderstood. Unlike professions such as law enforcement, construction, or even cowboys, the roles and responsibilities of PR practitioners are not always crystal clear to the general public. In this article, we aim to demystify the world of public relations by shedding light on five essential aspects everyone should know about this often overlooked industry.
PR is the Persuasion Business:
At its core, public relations is the art of persuasion. PR professionals seek to influence audiences both within their organisation and beyond its usual sphere of influence. Whether the goal is to promote an idea, sell a product, gain support for a cause, or highlight achievements, PR is all about building mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.
PR specialists are storytellers, crafting narratives that advance their clients’ agendas. They use various communication channels, including traditional media, social media, and self-produced content, to shape perceptions and manage reputations. When faced with adversity, PR experts devise strategies to respond effectively and mitigate damage.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.” In essence, PR practitioners are bridge builders, connecting organisations with their target audiences through strategic communication.
PR vs. Advertising: Unpaid vs. Paid, Earned vs. Purchased:
One fundamental distinction between public relations and advertising lies in the way they reach their audience. Advertising is a paid form of media, where organisations purchase ad space to convey their messages. In contrast, public relations focuses on earned media. PR professionals convince journalists or editors to write positive stories about their clients, candidates, brands, or issues. These stories appear in the editorial sections of magazines, newspapers, TV stations, or websites, lending them credibility as they are independently verified by trusted third parties.
A famous saying encapsulates this difference: “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.” PR stories are more believable because they are not bought; they are earned through persuasion and merit.
Tools of the Trade:
PR practitioners have an arsenal of tools and tactics at their disposal to achieve their goals. Some of the essential tools include:
Press Releases: Writing and distributing press releases to announce news or updates about their clients or organisations.
Speech Writing: Crafting speeches for clients, executives, or spokespersons to deliver compelling messages.
Pitches: Crafting pitches that are less formal than press releases and sending them directly to journalists to generate media interest.
Special Events: Organising events designed for public outreach and media relations.
Market Research: Conducting research to understand the firm’s messaging or public perception.
Networking: Expanding business contacts through personal networking or attending and sponsoring events.
Content Creation: Writing and blogging for the web on internal or external platforms to engage with audiences.
Crisis PR: Developing strategies to handle public relations during times of crisis.
Social Media: Managing social media accounts and responding to negative opinions online.
Public relations is a dynamic and influential field focused on building and managing relationships between organisations and their audiences. It is distinct from advertising in that it relies on earned media, which carries greater credibility and trust. PR professionals are skilled storytellers who shape narratives to achieve their clients’ goals and protect their reputations.
By understanding these fundamental aspects of public relations, individuals can better appreciate the role of PR practitioners and the importance of strategic communication in our society. Public relations may often operate behind the scenes, but its impact on shaping public perception is undeniable.