Defining Public Relations in the 21st Century

In 1978 at the inaugural World Assembly of Public Relations Associations, PR was defined as “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”

It was a somewhat convoluted definition of PR and may be responsible, in part, for the difficulty the public relations industry has had in defining itself for decades. Today, a more widely accepted definition of PR is as a communication function that seeks “to foster and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its target publics.”

What do Public Relations Practitioners Do?

PR practitioners help their clients to reach their target audience positively and often utilize the media to provide a third-party endorsement for a product, service, individual, business or organization.

PR helps you get noticed by your target marketWho Needs Public Relations?

Any individual, business or organization (party) that relies on public support for continued operation should implement some form of PR activity. Public relations will help to build reliable and consistent branding by working with a party to refine its public image, develop key messages, seek open communication with target publics, identify opportunities to solidify relationships and adapt as the market changes.

How do Public Relations Practitioners Reach Target Public?

Traditionally, PR practitioners help parties to shape news or feature-style story and sell it into the media using their knowledge of news values and the inner workings of the media. This tactic may include developing a media release, media alert, informative documents and spokesperson profiles; holding a media conference or event; media training spokespeople; and liaising with journalists.

PR practitioners also write speeches; letters; award, grant and tender submissions; website copy and printed materials.

How is the Public Relations Industry Evolving?

As media consumption moves away from newspapers and magazines to online and digital formats, PR practitioners are becoming very familiar with the benefits of social media in building relationships between parties and target market.

Many PR practitioners will recommend that traditional PR tactics be complemented newer ones such as social media presence and smartphone-compatible platforms.

What is the Difference Between Public Relations and Advertising?

In the eyes of the consumer, PR tends to carry more credibility than advertising because PR introduces a third-party – the media – to vouch for a product, service or party. While it is well known that all advertising space is paid for by the company behind it, many people don’t recognize when a PR company was the driving force behind a news story. However, even when people can identify a news story as the result of public relations activities, they also know that the story must have some merit for the media to cover it.

Public relations is a dynamic industry and an effective means of communication that many experts believe is yet to reach its full potential. Nonetheless, most large corporations and many smaller ones have embraced the PR function and are much better for it as they can continually gauge the attitudes of their target publics, adapt to them and build stronger, more sustainable relationships and better business.