What is public relations?
We have been asked this question so many times and the answer might be different, based on what type of public relations is sought. We can tell you what it is not: pure sales. We were listening to a client recently talk about PR on a radio show and he said it was pure sales. Shame on him. If public relations is pure sales, why call it something other than sales?
Providing you with the best information
We want to make you as comfortable as possible — not only in trying to do the work yourself, but in learning when to bring in the Fire Chief. We know many people have had bad experiences, and that is a shame, because there are so many of us that really care and love what we do!
You can Google “what is PR” (or spell it out, “public relations”) to see what pops up. We recently landed in a chat room that asked the question, and someone said the PR meant “pretty rad.” No kidding! Another person thought it meant “press release.” Well, at least that was somewhere in the ball park.
According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary PR is “relations with the general public as through publicity; specifically those functions of a corporation, organization, etc. concerned with attempting to create favorable public opinion for itself.” This is correct, but the definition is deeper than this entry indicates.
We love Wikipedia’s version: “Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. Public relations provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. Their aim is often to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about the company, its leadership, products or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.”
Definitions don’t tell the whole story
David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR says, “According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), public relations is the professional discipline that ethically fosters mutually beneficial relationships among social entities.” Later, and as it is used today, the PRSA uses a widely accepted definition–public relations helps an organization and its public adapt mutually to each other.
Nothing here talks about reaching the media, because in this Information Age, we are talking directly to your audience now. Press releases go out on the internet and anyone can read them. So not only do you have to reach the media, you have to speak directly to the people who need the information.
A lot of information to take in
What we want you to get from this, is that public relations is just that — relating, communicating with whatever niche public you are involved with. Public relations pros do deal directly with the media, but we also deal directly with the consumer, and that is a newer concept. Promotion is part of an overall PR campaign.
That is why many people think that PR folks are just salespeople. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a highly technical profession that involves many areas of expertise. Yes, we have to be able to sell a story to the media, and within that one must take many things into consideration. We also must be able to persuade and generate interest in the public, enough to get them to take action. Trust us, that is a far cry from straight sales.
The online world has forever changed PR. For now, if you are interested, read two books: For Immediate Release, by Ronn Torossian and the book mentioned before, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and make sure you get the third edition.
After reading those books, you won’t be saying “PR is just sales.” You’ll be calling us!