PR for the Rest of Us: What is Public Relations?

by Pari

I see part of my job in writing this blog as giving you a foundation in understanding my take on Public Relations. If I do it well enough, you’ll apply both theory and practical tools with equal comfort.

The question in today’s post sounds too basic, doesn’t it? Too simple. But the longer I’ve worked in PR, the more I’ve bumped up against incredibly limited views of my profession. To me, that’s dangerous. It closes so many doors before people even have a chance to realize they’re in a house.

So let’s start with some misconceptions.

Everyone knows that PR is about getting on the news.

Really? Is that it? Sounds intimidating.

Okay, well, it’s about lying spin, turning a negative image into something positive.

You mean like what BP is doing with those feel-good ads or how Toyota has the warm and fuzzy campaign emphasizing safety features? Isn’t that “advertising?”

Hey! I’ve got it. Public Relations is putting on special events.

I thought that was called, “Event planning.”

To all of the above, I say, “Pish.”
Open your minds! Have some fun, for Heaven’s sake.

Here’s my definition. It’s as simple – and loaded – as this post’s title:
Public relations is developing meaningful/useful relationships with your publics.

Meaningful/useful relationships are those that further your goals.
I know that sounds mercenary, but I don’t think of it that way. It’s just practical. If you own a store that sells homemade doggie treats, you want to find people who love dogs. You might want to partner with animal rescue organizations or pet stores or the folks that run the local ugly dog contests. All of those activities involve communication, developing trust, and asking for action . . . a.k.a. building a relationship.

The same holds true whether you’re a Doctor of Oriental Medicine or an author, a performer or the head of a local nonprofit. There are groups of people – or individuals — with whom you must have productive relationships in order to succeed.

Your publics can be –  readers, editors, ticket-buyers, customers, patients, stockholders, board of trustees, employees, professional acquaintances, donors, your community, the media, and so forth – anyone in your sphere with whom you need to cultivate a relationship.

Believe me, you have multiple publics already. I bet you could name at least six without too much trouble.

Go on, I’ll wait.

And here’s a news flash: You’ve been working all along in Public Relations whether you realize it or not.

At least some of those “publics” I mentioned are currently part of your world. You’re building, nurturing, helping/hindering, and defining those relationships today.

The trick is to learn to be intentional so that your efforts are more effective.

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