You’ve definitely heard the term public relations, but do you really know what it means?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, public relations is defined as: “The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution; also: the degree of understanding and goodwill achieved.”
The Public Relations Society of America also took a crack at defining the term public relations. After looking through over a thousand submissions, they came up with this definition: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Now you have a feel for what the phrase public relation means — but there is still so much that needs unpacking.
I mean, what goes into a PR department? What do PR professionals actually do? Is PR different from marketing and advertising? Is PR even necessary? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind when we start thinking about public relations. And if you don’t work in this illusive field, you definitely don’t have all the answers.
But PR is vital to business — big or small. Whether you’re trying to get into the field, looking to broaden your knowledge and skill base, or are starting your own company, there are some PR basics that you need to know.
What is PR?
Public relations relates to any activity a company engages in that raises brand awareness. It isn’t the same as advertising, as most PR activities are based on raising awareness and creating engagement more organically and with limited funds. It’s about media relations. It’s about strategic communication. It’s about creating a positive client image. It’s about facilitating public attention and favorable public opinion. Public relations is about building and earning trust. Without it, your company is just its product with no public backing.
PR initiatives always involve a third-party, as they are aimed at leveraging connections and creating opportunities to get a company in the spotlight. A lot of public relations is strategy implementation, media relationships, and utilizing social media.
Some specific activities that fall under the PR umbrella include creating press releases, writing blogs, conducting market research, crafting social media campaigns, coordinating outreach and media relation events, and sending out pitches.
PR professionals leverage mutually beneficial relationship with media outlets and other entities to foster a positive environment and outlook about a company.
How is PR different from marketing and advertising?
First things first, marketing is a broad umbrella field that includes both advertising and PR. Marketing includes all the initiatives that drive traffic, engagement, awareness, and promotions. Advertising and public relations are two different ways of meeting these marketing goals.
What separates advertising and PR, though, are pretty straightforward. Advertising, like PR, is a way of persuading an audience to buy a product for things like TV, radio, billboard, and newspaper ads. Advertising is also much more controlled. You decide what message you want to send out to the world where in PR you’re relying on others’ opinions of your brand. When you pay to put up an ad, you decide what to say, where you’re saying it, what your target audience is, and how long it is out in the world.
In short, advertising is all about targeted and specific paid announcements while PR is about unpaid brand awareness, mass communication, and outreach.
Why is PR important?
Public relations is important because it gets the word out about your organization and your product. It’s devoted to getting others to talk about you, which increases credibility and markets your organization as a leader in your industry or field. When a media outlet or other professional organisation has something good to say about you, your company image and company reputation gets a boost.
PR initiatives create a solid and positive reputation for your brand. You need this in order to succeed in your field, sell your products, and build a reputable, well-known company image. Successful PR initiatives create leads, drive traffic, increase brand equity, and increase brand awareness.
Your organization — whether it’s a start up or a large corporation — needs an integrated PR strategy in order to drive organic growth, foster positive public opinion, and develop a favorable company reputation. Without it, your company lacks awareness and credibility. You need PR to create conversations, otherwise the radio silence just might cause your company to close its doors for good.
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