Public Relations (PR) is not an easily defined practice. Don’t believe me? Go and tell your pal from high school who studied engineering in college that you are a PR specialist, then wait for the blank stare. One of many reasons PR is so misunderstood by those outside the industry is that most PR work is done behind the scenes.


PR is also not limited to just one practice; it is a culmination of 13 different practices that are crucial enough to make or break a brand. Today, I will explain define public relations, explain what can be achieved with great PR, and describe how technological advancement is changing the game for practitioners everywhere. Get your learning pants on, cause it’s going to be doozy.

What is PR?

PR is best described as the strategies surrounding a business’ overall presence and message. PR is the footing that allows brands to be prepared for publicity when the spotlight shines their way. It’s the core message, values and image of a brand or organization. PR also includes messaging, and the most appropriate or common form of communication between brands and their stakeholders.

Good PR generates publicity

The definition of publicity and PR are commonly muddled. Publicity is the outcome of PR tactics, which can have positive or negative impacts. Publicity is an act, event or device that attracts public interest and support, and it typically possesses some type of news value. Oftentimes, effective PR practitioners will create unique stories to resonate with the public, generating positive brand exposure and great publicity.

PR Roles

Another common misconception of PR is that practitioners only spend their time writing press releases and feeding stories to news networks. What many people don’t realize is that practitioners are equipped to wear numerous professional hats. Columbia College Chicago complied a great list of some commonly overlooked PR roles for your reading pleasure:

  1. Research: Discovering the attitudes and behaviors of stakeholders and analyzing them in order to plan, implement and measure activities to influence or change those attitudes.
  2. Media Relations: Developing relationships with media to leverage for publicity and responding to the media’s interest in a brand or organization.
  3. Employee/Member Relations: Informing and motivating an organization’s employees/members and responding to their comments.
  4. Community Relations: Ongoing planned and active participation within a community to benefit both an organization and the community.
  5. Public Affairs: Developing involvement in public policy, and helping organizations acclimate to public expectations; commonly utilized by militaries and some government agencies to define their public relations activities.
  6. Government Affairs: Working directly with legislatures and regulatory agencies on behalf of an organization. This is commonly a central element of a public affairs program; often referred to as “lobbying.”
  7. Issues Management: Identifying and addressing issues of public interest in which an organization is, or should be, concerned.
  8. Financial Relations: Creating and maintaining investor confidence and building positive relationships with the financial community; also called investor or shareholder relations.
  9. Industry Relations: Relating with trade associations and other firms in an organization’s industry.
  10. Development/Fund Raising: Demonstrating the need for and encouraging an organization’s members, friends, supporters and others to voluntarily contribute to support the cause.
  11. Multicultural Affairs: Relating with individuals and groups in minorities.
  12. Special Events: Stimulating an interest in a person, product or organization by means of a focused “happening;” also, activities designed to enable an organization to listen to and interact with its customers and the public.
  13. Marketing Communications: Combination of activities designed to sell a product, service or idea, including advertising, collateral materials, publicity, promotion, packaging, point-of-sale display, trade shows and special events.

Tech is changing the game

PR, much like every other field, is constantly shifting with the growth and adaptation of technology. Previously, news media was the only source available to disseminate information. In turn, they were understandably the primary targets for PR pitching efforts. Although the modern role of a media reporter is still critical, the descriptions of people who contribute to the media have evolved.

Today, anyone with a passionate opinion and a smartphone can share information. This changes the game for PR practitioners and the tactics used to generate publicity. Now it is more important than ever for practitioners to create memorable publicity and generate experiences and events that engage the public as a whole. Practitioners want to get the public talking, tweeting and spreading news on behalf of a brand or organization.


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