What is Public Relations?

What is PR?

In two words: brand management.  Public Relations is strategic communications that reach out to a company’s target audience to enhance brand image, increase awareness, build relationships and educate the target audience on the company and its products/services in a way that assists the company or organization in achieving its goals. Since public relations molds a company's image through communications and interaction, it focuses on the communication of many departments in a company, including customer service, marketing, sales, product development, human resources and others that interact internally and externally.  

The role of public relations has changed over the years due to the rise in social media and technology and the end of traditional media as the primary venue for communicating with target markets.   Consumer engagement is much more important than it has been in the past and the platforms for doing so have expanded to offer a plethora of opportunities for conveying your message and engaging your audience. 

The advancement in technology has demonstrated that it is imperative to pro-actively engage rather than sit back and be reactive to negative situations.  With multiple platforms and the flood of market messaging, it is nearly impossible to grasp the attention of a target audience by just sitting back and doing nothing. In addition, the speed at which news spreads has become practically instantaneous, making it crucial to be able to respond in a moment’s notice.


Media Relations: How is public relations different from advertising?

Public relations and advertising play two very different roles.  Advertising is the company telling its target audience why the company or its products are desirable.  This is done through paid placement of messaging and visuals designed by the company.  Advertising is helpful to raise awareness, but is less trusted since it is placed by the company itself.  Public relations, on the other hand, is third party verification of what makes a company desirable, making it a more trusted source of information. 

With public relations, the company nor its representative writes the story (most of the time), but positions and pitches the story to publications in which it wants a story on the company to be written.  Therefore, the company does not have ultimate control over exactly what is printed, though it is positioned to be written in a favorable way by the writer. One of the strengths with third party endorsements is that although the story was pitched by a PR representative of the company, it is often thought of to be unbiased and often is not recognized by the public to be placed by the company in any way.

Unlike advertising, there is no cost to public relations story placement besides the cost of your public relations firm.  However, advertising has the ability to place what it wants where it wants and public relations is subject to the desires and interests of journalists.  Ultimately, for many companies and organizations, the proper mix for building brand equity is a blend of both advertising and public relations.  Since advertising involves messaging and portraying a brand image in line with a company’s other activities, public relations overlaps with advertising, as it does with many other areas.  Ad placement and media buying is a service offered by most PR firms, including Environmental Relations.