What is PR? The term is sometimes thrown loosely. And even with five established public relations practitioners in a room, you might get 17 different yet accurate answers. Because PR encompasses many things.
A widely accepted description has to do with “creating and managing relationships that affect success or failure” of our program, our campaign or our organization. Good start. What specifically though do us PR people do? Depends on the situation, what we’re communicating about, who we’re communicating with, what we aim to accomplish, and of course the people involved.
We help companies grow. We help campaigns win. We help public figures relay their thinking. We garner awareness for causes. We translate ideas into real things. We consult, we execute, we represent. We help make sure organizations communicate properly, professionally and thoroughly.
Sometimes we’re a consultant, sometimes a director, sometimes a publicist, sometimes a content manager. The nature of our work forces us to think from shoes of many. PR people are tasked with considering how a certain action or communiqué might play with each audience (customers/clients, internal teams, community groups, governmental entities, local boards, news media, etc). We bring an outside and specialized perspective so that we can help those we represent make informed decisions and purposeful moves that help build lasting, productive, meaningful relationships.
Today’s world has endless communication channels, many new audiences and nonstop communication flow. Effectively navigating communications can be tricky. Your PR-minded person should be in the room when the big decisions are discussed. You want someone that’s focused predominantly on the perspectives and potential reactions of the different folks that have a stake in whatever we’re aiming to achieve at the time; to help ensure clear representations, within a growing world of information; and to be looking ahead, anticipating trends and recognizing opportunities.
Credibility is key and vital. So is telling the truth in the right way. It’s about being a steward of good information. Proper, clear, accurate communication is more important and powerful than ever. It’s our job to help make sure people are informed, and that organizational communications are aligned with organizational goals.
And because of this unique perspective, we often dabble outside our job descriptions. PR practitioners sometimes fill roles as management consultants or an organization’s strategy director on particular initiatives. Some go on to lead large organizations.
We could talk PR for some time, many have written books. Originally published in 1952 and now in its 11th edition, Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations is considered a go-to standard bearer.
If looking for a less comprehensive read, Wikipedia has a fair take on PR.