Defining Public Relations

As PR professionals and students, explaining to friends and family what we do can be challenging. How many times have you been asked, “What is PR?” or “Isn’t public relations the same as advertising?” Even after reading countless definitions and writing a paper about it in college,  defining public relations in casual conversation is still difficult but vital as communicators to master.

The PRSA states,  ‘œPublic relations helps an organization and its publics  adapt mutually to each other.’ However, try saying that to family and friends and it will probably leave them even more confused. Depending on your discipline (mine being consumer), I’ve found the best way to explain it as follows:

Provide a snapshot – When a client comes to a PR firm with a new or existing product, it’s the PR professionals job to earn non-paid publicity for that product/service. Hopefully the key word non-paid clears up the difference between advertising and PR.

Jump into real-life examples – Note the fact that product recommendations they read in magazines are probably the result of a PR professionals correspondence with an editor. Or that the celebrity appearance they just watched on a morning show was actually booked by a PR professional meant to promote that figures collaboration with a brand.

After that, make a read on their understanding of your definition. If they’re still a blank slate, explain your day-to-day. Don’t forget it’s our job to master the art of communication and if anything, this is practice. Whether you’re at a family party or meeting a guy at the bar who asks, “but what do you do in PR?”, the last thing you want to do is stumble on your words (we know how bad that looks).

How do you define public relations?

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