What is PR?


Having worked in the PR industry for 18 years I find it somewhat disappointing that we are still often asked the question, ‘what is PR?’, but I can understand why people are confused. Many in the industry fail to grasp what PR is and fall into the belief that it is simply communication or working with the media.

Frustratingly some people think that PR is ‘spin’, it isn’t, others see PR as purely media relations, it isn’t, and it is certainly not advertising, despite, in the past clients asking what happened to the ‘advert’ they asked you to put in!

Sadly when PR hits the media it is often for the wrong reasons, we’ve seen our industry bashed once again thanks to the unethical actions of a big player, I can’t stress enough how far away from the majority of PR professionals activities this type of behaviour is, its not what we do, its really not.

Here’s what our professional bodies use as their definition of PR

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) says that ‘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 the PRCA says that, Public relations is all about reputation. It’s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics – whether that’s employees, customers, investors, the local community – or all of those stakeholder groups.’

Both definitions have developed over time and will undoubtedly continue to do so to reflect the continually changing landscape in which we operate. For me relationships are at the heart of all that we do and are key to the success of any PR campaign.

A colleague of mine always talks about her PR umbrella and the many techniques at her disposal under that umbrella. This creates a great visual picture for me of ‘what PR is’ and includes social media, digital viral campaigns, media relations, crisis management, relationships, sponsorship and much more.

With this picture in mind I’d like to think, as a Chartered Practitioner, that with my umbrella up I am enveloped in a shawl of ethics, strategy and leadership as these are the three elements which need to be present throughout all we do.

For me, businesses and organisations that get the most from PR are those who see that PR has a place around the board table and take the advice of their PR practitioner with the same level of trust and importance as they would their finance or legal representative.

We still have a job to do in getting people to understand what PR is, more of a job now following the dismissal of Bell Pottinger from the PRCA,  and we should all take on this challenge as a better understanding of what we do will help the industry to enjoy a better reputation.


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