Public Relations (PR) Meaning
There seems to be confusion over the meaning of the term Public Relations (PR) these days. The term is increasingly bandied about by influencers and media and is often used incorrectly.
So what does Public Relations mean? Well, according to Wikipedia Public relations is defined as “the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organisation to the public in order to affect their public perception”. Similarly, the Public Relations Society of America defines PR as “the strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics”.
Put simply, Public Relations is all about the power of persuasion. It is a form of marketing that manages the public perception of a person or brand. We manage and influence public perception primarily through storytelling. The storytelling often takes the form of press releases, disseminated to a journalist or news outlets and then published.
PR agencies will place favourable stories about a brand or individual across the full spectrum of media including radio, print, television and online.
When was Public Relations invented?
The exact origins of public relations are debatable. During the reformation in the 16th Century, pamphleteering took off as a way for people to spread their messages, and influence the wider public.
When the circus arrived in America in the late 1800s as an organised and commercial form of entertainment it brought with it a form of public relations. The circus legend and huckster showman P. T Barnmun is often credited as being an early pioneer of public relations. His infamous promotional hoaxes, including putting an elephant in the front yard of his Connecticut home, could certainly be described as a per-courser to the contemporary “PR stunt”.
According to the Institute of PR, the year 1900 saw the first public relations agency established. The agency called, “The Publicity Bureau” was founded in Boston by three guys called George V. S. Michaelis, Herbert Small, and Thomas O. Marvin. In 1906, the firm came to public attention when they were hired by America’s railroads to oppose adverse regulatory legislation. The Bureau failed in their efforts, but following their intervention, all of the railroad companies established their own public relations departments. In the decades that followed the public relations industry has grown into an influential force that reaches every aspect of culture, from entertainment to business and politics.
PR Meaning: What do Public Relations do?
12 Things that Public Relations do:
1. Planning Marketing Strategies & Campaigns
Your Public Relations manager will take care of the development, planning and implementation of your public relations strategy. Whether you are a brand or an individual they will advise you on how best to reach your target audience. Public relations is about influence and putting your story in front of the people most.
2. Framing Stories
Public Relations experts will advise you best on how to frame a particular story in a positive light. They understand how to present you or your brand in a favourable light within the minds of both the media and the wider public. A good PR manager will be able to find the best hooks within a story and increase your chances of landing editorial coverage.
3. Writing Press Releases
Excellent written and verbal communication is a must for any PR professional. A good PR will understand the structure for writing a press release. They will be aware of how particular news outlets or journalists like to receive copy. They will be aware of the optimal times to send out releases to different journalists and publications.
4. Organising Press & Photo Calls
One of the common tasks of a Public Relations agency is to organise Press & Photo Calls. A good PR agency will have a network of press photographers that they work with across the country and a strong working relationship with the various newspaper picture desks.
5. Identify Targeting Markets and How to Reach Them
Your Public Relations agency will help you to identify the correct market segment for your story or brand. They should then provide you with a plan of how you can best reach and engage with that particular audience.
6. Crisis Communications
Crisis Communications or Crisis PR is a big part of public relations. Your PR agency will advise you on how to mitigate against risk before any communications take place or give advice on how to de-escalate an ongoing crisis. Remember PR is all about protecting and maintaining your or your brand’s reputation.
7. Positioning Brands
A PR agency will understand how to position your brand in front of the people who matter most. In the case of technology brands, it might be about having your piece of hardware or application used by key technology influencers. People are generally influenced by those who they perceive as peers or individuals who are experts in their field. A good PR agency will be able to put your brand in front of these key targets.
8. Handling Media Inquiries
Your public relations manager or agency will look after all of your external communications during a PR campaign. They will be aware of how to communicate appropriately with the media and flag any correspondence that does not need to be followed up with. During a campaign your PR professional acts as the public-facing point of contact for all inquiries.
9. Maintaining Relationships with Media and Key Influencers
Having a great black book is a must for any PR professional. Your PR will have strong ongoing working relationships throughout the media and also with stakeholders relevant to your industry.
10. Training & Coaching Clients
Many PR professionals will provide training and coaching to their clients. These services will often range from communications strategy to preparing clients for media appearances across television and radio.
11. Identifying Trends
Your PR needs to stay abreast of the latest trends across the media and culture as well as your specific industry. Their ability to identify trends will help your brand to stay ahead of the curve and to mitigate any potential risks.
12. Analysing Media Coverage
At the end of a campaign, your PR agency should be able to provide you with a detailed analysis of the media coverage you have received. They should also provide you with an estimate of your reach, impressions and engagement.
PR Meaning: What are the different types of public Relations?
1. Entertainment PR
One of the oldest forms of PR is Entertainment PR. Since sport became organised with the Olympic Games in Greece over 2,700 years ago right through to when the film industry took off in North America in the 1920s. Entertainment and public relations have gone hand in hand. There are PR agencies that specialise specifically in representing celebrity clients from the worlds of television, film, theatre and music. Other PR agencies will work in the promotion of entertainment based events representing those brands within the media.
2. Public Affairs
Public affairs is a type of public relations that involves policy orientated communications often involving common corporate interests and targeting government action. Public Affairs have a distinctly political dimension, unlike the more commercial concerns of public relations. Accordingly, a public affairs practitioner will usually work with stakeholders to influence the course of public policy.
3. Technology PR
Technology PR or Tech PR is about creating positive earned media on behalf of technology brands. Tech PR agencies will often help to position a technology brand in a way that lends credibility to the technology. Often your Technology PR provides a suite of additional services such as Identifying target markets or providing access to key industry influencers. They will also contribute to the overall messaging around the brand.
4. Strategic Communications PR
Strategic communication is a form of public relations that provides a framework for how to effectively communicate a public policy or service. As part of strategic communications, your PR will help to generate policies and ideas, gather insights, identify goals and assist your organisation in achieving its objectives. At CultureHead we collaborate with organisations to provide digital strategy and online communications.
5. Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR)
Corporate and Social Responsibility is a type of public relations that positions a brand favourably in the mind of the public by associating the brand with initiatives that are a force for good. This might include the sponsorship or support of charitable causes, non-for-profits or sporting groups.
6. Media Relations
Media relations is a form or public relations that handles communications between the media and an organisation. A media relations officer will have strong working relationships with key media and influencers relevant to the sector they are working with.
7. Event PR
Event PR is a type of PR that provides communication involving the Live Events industry. Your event PR company will often provide a host of secondary services including Photo Calls and influencer marketing as well as advice on your overall marketing strategy. CultureHead provides Event PR on behalf of some of Ireland’s leading national cultural events.
8. Lifestyle PR
Lifestyle Public Relations is a type of PR that focuses specifically on communications around consumer items and brands often across fashion, beauty, travel and fitness. Lifestyle Public Relations is very specialised, a lifestyle publicist will work to find appropriate placements for brands introducing products and services to the public. Lifestyle PR campaigns will often happen in tandem with a digital marketing campaign for the product or service.
What’s the difference between Public Relations and Marketing?
Marketing is about using a number of tools to create awareness of a service or product with the end objective of increasing sales. Public Relations is one of the tools utilised in marketing to create awareness, protect reputation, and gain favourable media coverage without having to pay money for advertising.
How do I become a PR?
Having excellent communications skills both verbal and written is fundamental to becoming a successful PR practitioner. Many PR professionals will have a background in journalism or will have studied English. There are many specific courses in public relations and marketing both at the degree and masters level. An excellent pathway to becoming a public relations professional is to get an internship with a Public Relations agency.
John Kenny is the founder of CultureHead one of Ireland’s leading communications agencies specialising in Public Relations, Digital Marketing and Training across the arts, entertainment and technology sectors.