What is Public Relations?
If you’re a little confused about what PR actually is, don’t worry you’re not alone. Understanding PR is a bit of a behemoth but I’m here to help.
An old boss in my early career once described it as ‘making people famous’. That’s a very simplistic way to explain it; but I guess it has some merit. Sort of. Although fame is born from incomparable skill, undeniable talent, being funny or inspirational on social media, making mistakes that deeply affect people…or of course appearing on reality TV.
Another boss once explained it as ‘we help people sell shit’. That didn’t really sit well with me either. Although at the time I was PRing fast moving consumer goods. So I guess there is some truth to that.
Speaking of truth, PR has also been described as ‘professional lying.’ Or s’cuze the French; ‘turning shit into champagne’. Again, incorrect. For us at raraPR anyway. We choose to work with incredible products, service offerings and talent as a prerequisite. I certainly didn’t dedicate my working life to lying. In fact quite the opposite. It’s truth seeking. It’s finding the hidden gold under the rubble. It’s unearthing stories that need to be told. It’s connecting likeminded folk so that the good things they create can be discovered and shared.
So, given the confusion; I thought I’d take some time to demystify what PR actually is. Firstly let me start by telling you what it isn’t. PR is not marketing (PR is a tool that marketers use). PR is not advertising (again, advertising is a tool that marketers use). PR is not event management (creating events is a tool that we in PR use). Working in PR is not the same as being a PA. PR is not journalism. We do however work with journalists. I hope you’re still with me?!
Hmm… so what the f*%@k is PR then?!
There are vastly different perspectives on the topic. Which doesn’t help with the confusion. And as the media and marketing industry evolve and converge, so too does PR from its traditional existence. But let me clear things up for you.
Traditionally PR was seen as the poor cousin of advertising; where paid ads monopoloised the communication landscape. However this status quo changed given people prefer to be informed and not sold to.
PR was and still is about securing earned (as in not paid for) media coverage and exposure for a brand, mostly within media outlets. In the olden days (not that long ago) this was fairly limited to print, TV and radio.
PR now as it was then, is about building brands and sharing stories. PR is the communication hub of any organisation. PR communicates news and influences people. PR is the art of talking to the right audience in the right way at the right time. PR influences and shapes a businesses image, reputation, brand perception and culture. The function of PR helps brand’s create a community. Today we do this via editorial media, including print, broadcast, radio, digital, video, special events, or social media. Before social media, companies had to rely on media to share their story. Now, they own their own platforms and can share their own story with the support of PR to guide them through it or do it for them.
In its true sense PR is creating communities. It’s about igniting conversations around the benefits of someone’s product or service. Although advertising, public relations and marketing are all entangled they way they work are all naturally and vastly different. PR is about marketing the essence of someone’s branding. For me it is about human connection.
While my kids don’t stand a chance of understanding what it is exactly that I do for a crust. Or what that funny word raraPR means. My simplistic answer is simply this; PR is helping businesses succeed. Marketing, advertising, copywriting, building websites, executing on social media, creating special events, branding, graphic design, point of sale, in-store experiences, media liaison, issues management, influencer outreach are all in our trade. But basically, we roll up the sleeves, we dig into the communications tool-kit and we do whatever it takes to help businesses reach their potential.
~ Words By Jade Roberts (raraPR Founder and Director).