Public Relations: What It Is and Why You Need It

Public Relations Defined

Wow. On researching how people define public relations (PR), I was surprised at the variety of descriptions. But in order to appreciate the value of PR to your business, it’s important to first have a good understanding of what it’s all about and clear up some common misperceptions.

To begin, PR is not synonymous with media relations, publicity or even community relations. Instead, these are just a few components of PR. They should support an overall PR strategy – which is to build a relationship with your publics (e.g. customers, the media, local communities, suppliers, employees and investors). More specifically: 

Media relations is the relationship a company develops with the media – journalists, reporters, editors – to build trust in order to more effectively communicate a message, story, or other newsworthy information (e.g. provide news tips that are timely and relevant to an intended audience).

Publicity focuses on a company’s presence in the media – it is generally used only to draw attention to a product, brand or event, and it tends to be “in the moment” (e.g. company holds a contest at a tradeshow).

Community relations is probably the most difficult to distinguish from PR. Although both work to promote a company’s image in a positive way, community relations focuses more on outreach and interaction with community members (e.g. employees volunteering at a community fundraiser).

Other components include public affairs, financial relations, issues management and employee communications.

Within these components, PR relies on many tactics and activities to achieve the company’s desired outcome such as:

• News releases
• News conferences
• Crisis prevention and intervention
• Application stories, case studies and white papers
• Social media planning/relations
• Blogs
• Event planning and coordination
• Sponsorships
• Photography/videography
• Speech writing/talking points

In short, PR is comprehensive – it’s so much more than commonly thought.

Defining Public Relations

Keeping in mind the components of PR and the tactics and activities that it entails, how should it be defined? Although research shows that definitions vary, there are some common ideas: strategy, awareness, image and relationships.

Here are just a few examples:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

“Public relations is about raising your company’s profile, managing its reputation and building relationships with the key people interested in your business…”
Jane Rogers PR

“Public relations is the creation, distribution and dissemination of messaging and communications for the purpose of promoting and fostering positive awareness, associations, imagery, perception of a person, place or thing among a particular target audience to effect a desired behavior.”
Dan Gernsten

So what does this all mean?

There is no one global definition of PR. However, the common theme behind these definitions is that PR, when done effectively, will have a positive impact on your company’s reputation and your relationships with the people who are vital to your company’s success.

Why you need it

More specifically, a well thought out PR plan will:

• Create a positive and lasting image with your target audience
• Build relationships with the key people interested in your business
• Increase your audiences’ awareness of who you are and what you stand for
• Influence your target audiences’ purchasing behavior

By using the tools that PR offers, whether its media relations, event planning or internal communications, you can increase your company’s profile, raise awareness of what you do, educate your target audience and position yourself as an industry expert. This, in turn, can often result in more inquiries and sales.

In summary, public relations is a comprehensive strategic process that uses a variety of tactics to get your brand message out to the marketplace, keep your target audience engaged in your company and product, and ultimately help you achieve your business goals.

To learn more about PR services at BrandDirections, click here. You can also contact me at 920-886-7719 or email me.


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