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What is PR & How You Can Use it?

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PR is short for “public relations” and refers to the strategic communication from an organization to the public to maintain or cultivate public image and/or respond to public discourse.

There’s an old saying: “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”

Public relations isn’t an easy profession to define. In fact, in 2012, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) accepted a few thousand submissions before finally agreeing on one:

So how can an organization take its beneficial relationship to the public and turn it into good press? Are you really “praying” for something, like the old saying goes, if you’re using a strategic process to get results?

If public relations is a bridge for that relationship, then public relations professionals are the bridge builders. Let’s talk about them a little more specifically:
What is a public relations professional?

A public relations professional is in charge of creating and executing a PR strategy, helping a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation through various unpaid or earned channels and formats, including press, social media, and in-person engagements. They also help clients defend their reputations during crises that threaten their credibility.

In order to understand this, you must first consider the two sides of PR: the positive storytelling side and the negative damage-controle side.

Positive Public Relations

Public Relations: Positive PR StrategiesIf an organization is proactive about their image, they will likely be investing in positive public relations where a PR professional helps portray the brand’s reputation, idea, product, position, or accomplishments in a positive light.

So, in a sense, you can think of PR professionals as storytellers. Unlike advertisers, who tell stories through paid methods, PR professionals tell their stories through unpaid or earned media.

These unpaid or earned avenues include:

News and press
Media outreach
Social media
Speaking engagements

Keep in mind that a PR professional isn’t just trying to reach a paying customer … they’re trying to reach everyone.
Example of Positive PR

Let’s say you work for a small interior design company, and your business just won an award: “Best Interior Design Company in Chicago.” A PR specialist might draft a press release and conduct outreach to reporters to write a story about this accomplishment to spread the news to the public.

Along with building a credible reputation for your interior design business, the PR professional is also helping the public receive relevant information about this accolade. If I’m a consumer looking for an interior designer, this announcement could help me, too.

Public relations extends to government, too. PR professionals can execute political campaigns or explain a government’s new policy to the public. In this case, you can see how PR professionals work to maintain a healthy and productive relationship between their client (the government) and the general public, who have a right to hear about new policies.