What is Public Relations? You would think that such a simple question would have a simple answer … but it hasn’t.
Those who do not work in PR most often think of it as media relations, or (the dreaded ‘spin’). Those who work in related disciplines, such as advertising or direct marketing, likely have more of an idea, but still tend to align PR with media relations. Scarily, there are even people who earn a living from what they say is Public Relations who think that media relations is its main purpose. They are all wrong.
A good place to start is to explain what PR is not … PR is NOT media relations. There, I’ve said it. PR is so much more than media relations – no official definition of Public Relations even mentions the word media (see below).
Media relations is tactical. Public Relations is strategic.
There are many public relations definitions, but what you need to know is that PR is about building and nurturing relationships with the people you need to influence (stakeholders) to think in a certain way about your organisation, what it is and what it does. Media relations is one of the ways you could reach your stakeholders.
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 2: Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics – The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)