I love meeting new people. It’s always interesting to hear not only “what they do” but how they talk about what they do. Lately I seem to have been out more than normal and have consequently had lots of opportunities to answer this question. I’ve encountered many politely interested, but completely blank stares. You can’t just say “I’m in public relations” and expect anyone to know what you’re talking about. Thanks to Hollywood, apparently I plan parties ( I do of course, but that’s another post).
So, there are many ways to explain public relations but I will keep it somewhat generic and straight forward. According to Wikipedia, public relations is “the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. Public relations gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. Because public relations places exposure in credible third-party outlets, it offers a third-party legitimacy that advertising does not have.
I like this definition because it reinforces the heart of PR – legitimacy. Because the review, the coverage, the placement or story must be EARNED, each and every time – it maintains a credibility that advertising can never claim. Don’t get me started on the ROI of PR versus traditional marketing and advertising. There are so few hard costs associated with PR. It really is about understanding your product/company/service, creating a great story and delivering it to the right audience(s). Sounds simple of course, but it’s in the execution (a bit of luck and timing never hurts) that differentiates a successful campaign from a merely forgettable one.
So, next time you’re at a party and someone tells you they are in public relations, you can impress them with your thorough understanding of earned coverage versus paid placements.