What PR Is and 5 Things It’s NOT

What is PR?Earlier this month, the Public Relations Society of America announced a new definition of public relations. Following nearly 1,500 votes from industry professionals, significant commentary and almost a year of research, PR is now defined as:

 “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”


The definition is concise, solid and probably the closest we’re going to get to defining something so comprehensive, multi-faceted and ever changing. But, as one colleague stated, “I’m still not sure it’s going to help my family understand what I do.” Exactly.

The definition doesn’t address how the process of PR builds relationships. It doesn’t get into the strategies and tactics of our profession – things like media relations, expert positioning, social media and so on. But, how could it? Every campaign is different, based on each client’s individual needs, goals and resources.

So, to help people better understand what PR is, I’m going to share five things it’s not:

  • Spin Doctoring – As an ethical PR pro, it is my job to communicate straightforward facts about my clients. (See previous blog post, “In PR, ‘Spin’ Is a Four-Letter Word.”) Under the PRSA Code of Ethics, we are responsible for “protecting and advancing the free flow of truthful and accurate information.” We don’t lie, hide information so our clients look better, and we don’t spin. 
  • Advertising – Generally, PR pros don’t create or place paid advertisements. Instead, we work to gain objective, unpaid editorial coverage, which is more credible and difficult to secure.
  • Publicity – I don’t represent Lindsay Lohan or Kim Kardashian.  I’m not the person who tells the media they are exhausted when they’ve been on a bender, set up cutesy photo opps with The Biebs or stage wardrobe malfunctions at just the right time. I don’t believe that all press is good press and I’d have an absolute heart attack if my client ever ended up on TMZ.
  • Press Release Pushing – On several occasions, I’ve heard people use the term “PR” for press release (i.e. We’d like to issue a PR for this). PR is short for public relations NOT for press release. Yes, we write press releases as a media relations tactic and media relations is a component of public relations. But, it is not all we do as public relations professionals.
  • Party Planning – Samantha Jones did us no favors in this department. Again, events can be part of what we do, but only when the event helps achieve an overarching communications goal. While the profession involves connecting people, we by no means spend our time planning socialite parties in the Hamptons or toasting with the Absolut Hunk. But, we can dream.

 -Stacey Sepp

 

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