What is Public Relations (PR)?

What is PR? is an often asked question.  My simple reply is PR (Public Relations) is about relationships, reputation, influence and behaviour change.

Your PR activity is how you build and nurture relationships with the people you need to influence the opinion of (stakeholders), which in turn is what determines reputation and prompts a change in behaviour.

There are official definitions of what is PR (see below), but all you need to know is that if you need people to think in a certain way about your organisation, what it is and what it does, in order to encourage them to do ‘something’, then PR is how you achieve this.

There is a lot of talk about the differences between PR and marketing, or if they are one and the same.  There is a lot of overlap but they are different.  My definition is that PR is what influences opinion, and marketing is what influences sales.

In a practical sense, if PR is considered by an organisation to be part of marketing then the organisation’s focus is on sales.  If marketing is considered to be part of public relations then the organisation’s focus is on communicating, with sales secondary.

Membership organisations, specifically professional bodies and trade associations, primarily have a PR focus as they exist to further the profession or industry/sector the represent.  Marketing their services (to increase and retain membership) are secondary.  NB: there are always exceptions to this ‘rule’.

The importance and value of public relations

Everything the organisation does and says has the potential to affect its reputation and influence the opinion of stakeholders.  To be most effective, public relations needs to be embedded at all levels of the organisation.

If an organisation values its reputation, and the effect it has on the decisions of members and other stakeholders, then PR must be at the core of decision-making.  I see mistakes made when PR is an afterthought or considered once decisions are made and the story needs to be told.  PR personnel are an organisation’s connection with stakeholders and the conscience of the organisation. Public Relations is an organisation’s guardian angel.  Don’t make the school boy mistakes of others – be the one that makes PR part of creating your story.

Public Relations Definition 1: Public Relations (PR) is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.  PR is the management discipline* which looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support, and influencing opinion and behaviour.  It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics – The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) *I do not agree with the term management discipline as I believe strategic management function is more accurate. Read my reasoning.

Public Relations Definition 2Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics – The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

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