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Five things everyone should know about public relations

By Marissa Barnes

Students learning about the basics of public relations.As a rising PR professional, too often people ask me, “What does someone working in PR do?” It can be difficult to explain it to someone who doesn’t have a marketing or communications background.


Almost every other industry is straightforward. They wear one hat and can explain their roles to anyone. Yet, the PR industry doesn’t do a great job of PR on themselves. That’s why this list of “Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations,” from Forbes is extremely important, even for people working in public relations to understand. 


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1. What is public relations?

PR is the persuasion business. As the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) puts it, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” 


PR professionals are always trying to tell a story. Image management is one of the most important parts of working in PR and focuses on enhancing an individual or company’s reputation.  


Some of the tasks PR professionals focus on include writing press releases, speech writing, conducting market research, blogging for the web, and much more. 


2. How is public relations different from advertising?

Advertising is paid media; public relations is earned media. Anyone can pay for advertising but not everyone can gain free publicity. Advertising can be expensive, and it doesn’t always pay off to spend thousands of dollars on advertisement. Advertising people tell you what you want to hear; PR people tell you what you need to hear. 


3. What is news? 

There are two aspects to news: create a story and follow a story. Some questions to ask yourself to determine if something is newsworthy are: What’s the story? Why should I care? Always follow the ten elements of news to determine if a story is newsworthy.


Create a Story: If a company is looking to make the news, most of the time, the news is looking for something fresh and new that will get people’s attention.


Follow a Story: As soon as you see a story in the news, it is PR people’s duty to respond. It is important to think quickly and get the media's attention right away. 


4. Can social media replace traditional media? 

No. Social media serves as an amplifier for PR efforts and helps make everything understandable for the everyday person. Social media is important for building relationships and creating a network to interact with people. 


Using social media for PR is about understanding how you are going to get your message across on multiple platforms. Boring doesn’t cut it on social media, so posting a straight-up news release is not going to work. 


It is important to tailor that news release to each platform and figure out the most captivating way to get your audience interested. Instagram focuses on pictures while it is important to fit your words into 280 characters on Twitter. These are all things to think about when using social media for PR. 


5. Can you measure PR?

Believe it or not, PR is measurable. There are many different ways PR firms can measure data and make estimates about PR, but there is no exact science to measure PR. Many people working in PR may dispute this statement, and it is difficult to understand if it can be measured exactly. But there are many ways for firms to make their best estimate. 


If you are looking to get into PR or never know how to explain what it is, hopefully, this can serve as a guide for all PR professionals. PR is so important, and we must start giving ourselves the credit that we deserve. To learn more about PR and different types of PR, read more about different topics on the Axia blog. 

Forbes.com originally published "Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations" and we've summarized, expanded, and customized it.


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Marissa is currently a rising senior at Michigan State University studying advertising management and public relations. She is an aspiring PR professional and is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about multiple areas of PR.

Topics: PR tips

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