One of the most common travails of any Public Relations firm or PR practitioner is that many people tend to be unsure what exactly it is that you do. From the inevitable queries at dinner parties about “so what does a PR actually do?” to the grumblings of clients who are unsure as to how to assess their ROI in your services, a common problem of the PR is that many people seem to wrongly conflate the profession with advertising, a profession, that thanks to its more obvious ubiquity and television shows such as Mad Men, does not suffer from the same kind of confusion.
Although defining the complex and wonderful art of public relations is something that could make for a several thousand word thesis, in short, public relations is about the maintenance of a positive public image or reputation. The main way in which PR professionals and firms maintain this positive reputation is through the use of media relations. Media relations essentially involves liaising with the media in order to inform the public of their client’s practices, achievements, mission, policies and sometimes their very existence. Advertising, on the other hand, means disseminating an organisation or individual’s message through paying for a slot or advertising space.
PR can tend to be more powerful and more effective in spreading a message specifically because it is free. While a journalist will not write a story about your client unless the message behind the story is strong, a newspaper will accept an advertisement from your client as long as you meet their price for advertising space, regardless of the strength of the message. The above sentiment was summed up in a recent article for Forbes, in which PR guru Robert Wynne described the difference between advertising and PR with the sentence “advertising is what you pay for, PR is what you pray for”.
Part of the confusion between the two practices is because a lot of the work that goes into public relations lies behind the scenes. The layman is almost completely unaware of the work that PRs do behind the shadows, pitching stories to journalists, building and maintaining long term relationships with media outlets and clarifying and strengthening messages before a story reaches their newspaper or television set. On the other hand, when we read or watch an advertisement, we can assess exactly what we are seeing, and understand that an advertising agency has been involved from the copywriters who were the creative force behind the advert, to the purchase of advertising space.
Public relations is a field that has undergone vast changes, from the advent of the internet and the explosion of new web based media outlets, to the growth of social media and the risks and challenges that such a fast moving communications medium poses to PRs. Public relations is a profession that is here to stay and will continue to shape the news and the way that organisations can communicate their messages.
Even if the general public never fully figure out what it is exactly that we do.
Originally posted by Curzon PR