Course One: What is Public Relations?


PR101: What is Public Relations?

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the definition of public relations (PR) is:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Public relations is often confused with advertising. Like advertising, it seeks to inform, educate and persuade to action. But unlike advertising, which controls its messages and media through paid placement, public relations builds relationships and creates an ongoing dialogue of interaction and involvement with an organization’s target audiences and those who influence those audiences.

What else does public relations do?

  • Builds credibility
  • Builds and protects reputations
  • Enhances knowledge/understanding
  • Supports a business strategy
  • Helps create or reinforce a market niche
  • Tracks and manages special issues
  • Extends reach, frequency and the message of an advertising campaign
  • Helps create a supportive environment — to make a sale ... turn out a vote … attend a public healthscreening ... recruit volunteers … maintain employee loyalty
  • Informs public opinion

But public relations cannot do everything. It cannot ...

  • Be a quick fix or panacea
  • Cover up bad news
  • Manipulate public opinion
  • "Control" the media or the message through paid placements
  • Replace advertising or other marketing communications techniques
  • Pump up a stock price
Public relations professionals generally work for an agency (one company, many clients) or in-house (for a specific company, not-for-profit organization, celebrity, sports team, etc.) This guide is designed to give you a snapshot of life in a public relations agency (firm) but many of the tools you will learn are applicable to any public relations position. Throughout this guide, you will find that public relations is a broad and varied field, one that is continually evolving to meet the world’s ever changing communications needs.