What exactly is PR?
The concept of public relations – or PR – has been around as long as businesses have existed but began to be more clearly defined in the 20th century.
The CIPR definition:
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.
“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
And what it is not
Spin, lying, or deceit. Though PR involves good storytelling that places positive messages centre forward, it’s not about twisting the narrative beyond truth.
It’s also not advertising. As Jean-Louis Gassée, former Apple executive, said: “Advertising is saying you’re good; PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.” One of the basic differences is that advertising results come from paying for space, on a page or TV/radio, whereas PR results are the organic fruit from relationships built with an organisation’s publics.
PR is fundamentally about communicating a specific message to specific people, whether they are stakeholders, media, or customers. A PR specialist can help a company or organisation fine-tune its messaging to more clearly communicate brand values, reach target audiences, increase brand awareness, or achieve another goal.
News desks are often understaffed and working to ever increasing click-through targets with a need to get stories turned around quickly, so communicating with journalists involves reducing messaging to the most concise, punchy form possible, and pitching when journalists are least likely to be caught up in political or heavy news events.
PR specialists are called upon in a reputational crisis to help an organisation with the tone of its public statement or apology, if one is needed, as well as monitor the situation and mediate press interest. Good PR involves anticipating what could happen next and making sure an organisation is equipped to deal well with it.
Crisis management is also not about ‘spin’, it’s about carefully navigating the situation and communicating in the best way possible with key audiences – whether they need reassurance, explanation or even apology.
The power of good PR is still very much misunderstood and underestimated by many people, but it’s something all organisations should invest in.