What is public relations? According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
But even that intentionally broad definition can't fully encompass everything public relations is – or should be.
At its core, PR is about relationships. For your company, those relationships might be with the general public, potential customers/clients, investors, employees, government regulators and/or the media, and your relationship with any of those audiences may or may not be mutually beneficial at any given time.
So what is public relations?
The practice of public relations (the job of a PR professional) is to develop and maintain those relationships so that they are mutually beneficial. PR pros use a variety of channels and tools to cultivate good relationships for organizations and their products or services.
What is Media Relations?
One of those channels, media relations, is so closely related to public relations that people often mistakenly believe they are synonymous. Public relations professionals work with members of the media to publicize companies and their products through earned news coverage in print, broadcast and online media.
This is called earned media because, unlike advertising, companies do not have to pay for placement of news stories. One of the key advantages of public relations over other marketing channels is that earned media helps establish credibility for a company and its products or services. Studies show that people are far more likely to believe a news story than an advertisement.
Other tools PR pros use include:
- monitoring media channels for public comment about their clients and their products or services
- managing social media to develop positive relationships for clients
- managing crises that can damage a company's image
- helping clients build goodwill in the community through charitable events and programs
- search engine optimization to help potential clients and other publics more easily find clients' websites
- reputation management programs that can counter negative online reviews
- helping clients enter and earn awards highlighting their accomplishments and corporate responsibility
Reaching specific audiences will often require public relations professionals to develop unique channels of communication. Employees and franchisees may require specially targeted messages that complement the relationships a company is cultivating with its customers. Relationships with investors are highly regulated and require specific disclosures. Vendor relationships may require more targeted messages as well.
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