What Is Public Relations?

In our public relations book, Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach by David Guth and Charles Marsh the first chapter talks about the definition of public relations and the difficulty of defining the term public relations.  I also looked up a definition of public relations and wise geek defined PR similarly to our book.  I thought it was interesting that because of the negative connotations of the term public relations, some companies refer to public relations in other ways.  For example, they may call public relations public affairs or corporate communications.  I’ve personally never heard of a company calling this profession anything other than public relations. 

Although I’ve learned about public relations in class and through my internships, I’ve never learned the specific elements of public relations: a management function, two-way communication, a planned activity, a research-based social science, and socially responsible.  Even though there are four models of public relations, I agree with the book that the two-way symmetrical model form of communication is the best.  I think of it best as having a conversation.  Conversations do not work if both people are not talking.  If one is only talking and one is only listening, usually one person loses interest.  If public relations professionals are constantly sending out information without listening to the the publics in which they are sending it to, the public may lose interest.   

I enjoyed reading about the profiles of different PR practitioners.  The short descriptions of public relations agencies, corporations, government, nonprofit organizations, and independent public relations consultants quickly gave an overview of exactly what PRos in that field do.  The case studies showed how values are the main things that drive public relations practitioners to do what they do. 

My Defintion of Public Relations

In my last public relations class, I learned that public relations is the management of complex interactions between an organization and it’s publics.  To me, this definition encompasses many different things.  Through my personal experiences with working in three different areas (corporate PR- Verizon Wireless, small firm- JDPR, and law firm- Toussaint Law Firm) I’ve learned that a public realtions practioner wears mutliple hats.   Writing press releases, constantly keeping in contact with the media, developing new ways to pitch ideas, working with a company’s philanthropy, making flyers and brochures to distribute, and tracking media clips are only a few of the many things that I witnessed my fellow co-workers continuously do at my internships.

Now, as times are changing and more news is becoming “citizen news” through social media, PRos must keep up with the new technology that is being invented.  Through Twitter, blogs ,and Facebook, YouTube and other forms of social media, a company can be praised or totally ripped apart within moments.  It’s scary to think that people who may not have any expertise on a part an organization that you represent can easily bad mouth it and cause permanent damage.