In my nearly (gasp) two decades of experience in the Public Relations (PR) industry, I have yet to come across anyone who hasn’t heard of the profession. Yet, almost no one actually understands what it is. To my surprise, even folks in related fields are sometimes unclear about what PR does, or doesn’t, do!
Most of the time, individuals in the business community mistake it for advertising or some form of event-only work, or “party PR.” That said, it seemed like it would make sense to explain what PR actually is before jumping ahead too much into tips, tricks, or suggestions.
The industry association – the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – defines PR as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
If done correctly, PR should advance an organization’s overall business goals and objectives through communications. A well-planned Public Relations strategy should always come first. What’s the point of any tactical efforts if they aren’t inline with the organizations goals? It’s imperative to understand why you are taking the time, making the effort, or spending the money to accomplish a specific tactic.
Once the strategy is in place, PR tactics are used to generate and/or increase awareness of a brand or person with key audiences. Those audiences can make up prospective clients, current clients, or those who might refer business, as well as partners.
What, though, are PR activities you can expect out of a PR firm, or perhaps an internal Public Relations professional? PR includes an array of activities. The implementation phase can range from a variety of media relations activities, such as pitching media for bylines, specific stories, or issuing news releases on specific company announcements; researching, securing, and coordinating opportunities for key spokespeople to participate on panels and attend various industry-related conferences; developing and executing social media plans, which now includes developing content; nominating clients for credibility-boosting awards; and developing and managing events for specific purposes.
In addition, Public Relations professionals are increasingly viewed as counselors to senior management. By anticipating and analyzing how specific actions might be received by certain audiences, or publics, PR professionals can help shape organizational policies, programs, and courses of action.
Another important distinction with PR: it is much more credible – nearly 90% more – than advertising. Public relations is earned whereas advertising is bought – a key differentiator.
At the end of the day, a successful PR program rarely happens without consistent effort – or a highly qualified PR professional!