What is PR?

It’s come to my attention with the recent and ongoing anti-PR sentiment criss-crossing the country that people are confused about the definition of public relations. In fact, there are people who purposely define themselves as other than public relations when in fact they are in our discipline.

I’d like to begin to rectify this situation with the launch of a “What is PR?” blog series. I’m seeking public relations practitioners of any number of years in the profession and with all skill sets to help me sink in and define the very crux of what we do every day.

I was jolted into this idea based on the highly emotional blogs I’ve been reading about the Hamptons restaurateur, the TechCrunch debacle via Shonali Burke’s blog Waxing Unlyrical, and numerous other rants against me and my peers indirectly and generally (many on Gini Dietrich’s Spin Sucks blog).

To join me on this regular feature I’ll unfold over time, please watch for tweets, an email invite, or please send me a note right here, below. I’m highly accessible; it’s part of being in public relations.

Let me share my broad definition of public relations and begin to shed light. It’s not the only definition, I’m sure, and it can be enhanced with your help; here goes:

There are so many descriptions and titles of what people do in public relations it has become confusing. I’ve heard mass communications, marketing communications, corporate communications, marketing public relations, and other descriptors. In fact, a recent Ohio State University graduate insisted he was not in public relations, but everything down to the press release he was doing was exactly PR.

You can be an agency person (my background), work in a corporate setting, get a job at a not-for-profit, in the government sector, or with a non-governmental organization, for example.

Stepping in deeper, a public relations practitioner can become a specialist in a vertical market which defines expertise as health care, medical, pharmaceuticals, financial, publishing, fashion, food/hospitality, manufacturing, utilities, professional services, academia, and the like. Or, he or she can remain a generalist and tap many verticals and industries.

Within these specialties represented by boutique agencies or in-house teams, there are skill sets and competencies defined by editorial/publications, employee relations/ internal communications, financial/investor relations, media relations, industry analyst relations, special events, and more.

Not everyone in the profession has skill sets across the board. The biggest area for argument is media relations; people think just because they don’t know how to pitch media and don’t like it it means they’re not in public relations. I’ve heard folks tell me because they’re in a corporate setting working with internal communications they are not in public relations. This couldn’t be farther from the truth; on both accounts.

As said, public relations as a discipline (in addition to marketing and advertising as disciplines) is broad; many competencies exist within public relations, and I’ve just touched the tip of the berg for you. Where I wish to set the record straight is for the people who don’t realize they are smack in public relations, and for the people who are happy to label themselves something other than PR when in fact they’re delivering this service every day and thinking they’re not. (Why is that, by the way?)

Is anyone else game to help further define public relations and help educate just about everyone? I’ve been told we’re the best-kept secret and our sisters don’t even understand what we do or how we integrate with their disciplines. Heck, it took my parents 20 years to understand I wasn’t doing free advertising. It’s time to alter negative perception right now because there’s a professional crisis of education right now.

(Image: toughsledding.wordpress.com)