This could be a very short article. Ultimately, PR is the business of persuasion. It is the process of trying to convince an audience outside your usual sphere of influence in order to promote an idea, sell a product, garner support for a position, or gain recognition for accomplishments. But don’t just take my word for it; after a few thousand submissions, here’s what the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) finally landed on as a definition:
“Public relations is a strategic
communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between
organizations and their publics.”
At their core, PR people are storytellers. They are tasked with creating narratives to further advance their agenda and can use their skills to protect, enhance or build reputations via the media, social media, or self-produced communication material. If you have a good PR practitioner on your case, they will have already analyzed your organization, mined the positive messages within, and translated those messages into positive stories. When the news is bad, they are able to formulate a rapid and comprehensive response and mitigate the damage.
“A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation,” says the Princeton Review, “they keep the public informed about the activity of government agencies, explain policy, and manage political campaigns. Public relations people working for a company may handle consumer relations, or the relationship between parts of the company such as the managers and employees, or different branch offices.”
Their tools are as numerous as they
are disparate, and can include:
● The writing and distribution
of press releases
● Pitch writing, which is less
formal than press releases. They are typically about a firm and are sent
directly to journalists
● The creation and execution of
special events designed for public outreach and media relations
● The expansion of business
contacts over the course of personal networking, or attendance and sponsorship
● The writing and blogging of
content for online channels
● The creation of strategies at
a time of public relations crisis
● The promotion of messages on
social media while mitigating the impact of negative opinions online.
As part of their role as communications guru on your behalf, a public relations specialist will be especially skilled at, and well connected to, convincing reporters or editors to write positive stories about you or your client, brand or issue. As such, good PR will ensure that your story appears in the editorial section of the newspaper, magazine or website, earning it substantially more credibility than advertising. Indeed, when something is published in media, audiences will perceive that it has been independently verified by a trusted third party (the media), and will be far more receptive to your messaging.
At the end of the day, public
relations is about getting recognition for your brand, business or issue that
is earned, rather than bought, and relies on the building of trust as its main
currency. If you’ve been prioritizing your advertising budget at the cost of
alternatives, it may just be time for a switch.