Public relations is somewhat of an enigma of an industry. Those who work in PR are often asked what exactly it is that they do. Trying to explain PR to someone who has no clue about the industry – or has their own preconceived notions about it – can be a complicated undertaking. Many times, people tend to conflate public relations with a plethora of other practices – traditional and digital marketing, publicity, advertising, and social media management usually come up at some point when discussing PR. To help clear things up, we’ve compiled this short and sweet list of 5 things everyone should know about public relations.
1. First things first: what in the world is public relations?
The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
2. Public relations is not the same as advertising.
The difference is quite simple: advertising is centered around creating paid messages that are then placed in the media; public relations is all about strategically building positive relationships between brands and the public to create a certain perception. Although it is not uncommon for public relations agencies to dabble in paid advertising – think paid social media ads – at its core, effective PR should be able to convey a message without the need to pay for it.
3. Everyone who works in PR thoroughly understands the news media.
Public relations isn’t just sitting around on social media all day. It is essential that PR professionals know all the ins and outs of what makes news interesting and, well…news. Reading and staying up to date on the news is critical if you are looking to insert a client into a story.
4. Although increasingly important to public relations, social media is not a PR “replacement.”
There’s no question that social media can work to help amplify messages, whatever they may be. Social media is certainly an invaluable tool for PR professionals, especially for boutique lifestyle public relations firms like ourselves that rely heavily on social media aesthetics and digital influencers. But, again, there is a ton more to public relations than sitting around on social media all day!
5. Public relations is not an exact science.
It is a vast, ever-changing field that has evolved into a hybrid of many other practices. Just because a strategy worked for one client, does not mean it is going to work for a similar client. Those who work in public relations need to be quick thinkers, ready to adapt to change on a moment’s notice.