What is Public Relations?

By Andie Davis, LCI

Ever wonder what the difference between PR and advertising is? The history of PR? The day-to-day of a PR professional? How about PR best practices? LCI’s Andie Davis explains all in less than five minutes.

Check out the video below:

Video Transcription

Hi everyone, Andie Davis here from LCI. Today I’m going to take you through a brief PowerPoint about public relations.

So, let’s get started. I think it makes the most sense to start with some definitions.

PR Definitions

Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. PR is also known as earned media. Earned media is coverage that is earned and not paid.

I think it is important to also define advertising because it is often confused with PR. The distinction between PR and advertising is that advertising is paid media while PR is not paid. Paid media often comes in the form of sponsored content such as webinars, editorial content, etc.

Now for a brief history of PR.

PR History

Communication is nothing new to the human species. In fact, humans have been communicating with one other since around 37,000 to 17,000 BC. A classic example of early communication includes cave paintings which often depicted elements of nature and life.

Another important historical moment for communications/PR is the invention of Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in 1440 AD. This invention allowed for mass production of printed items and an increase in the ability to communicate and access knowledge.

PR, as we know it today, dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, according to PRSA.

Obviously, there are many historical moments that led to the creation of PR. The Museum of Public Relations is a good source of information if you would like to learn more. If you visit their website, they include many more events in PR history.

Alright, so now for the functions of PR.

The functions of PR

There are many, as shown on this slide. However, when I tell people that I work in PR, they often think my job is to only help clients with crises. This is a common misconception with PR and is far from the truth. While crisis communications are a part of PR, it is only one aspect of what we do. In my day-to-day, I would say reputation management, media relations and strategic counsel are the most prevalent.

In PR, implementing best practices is CRUCIAL. In fact, these shouldn’t just be practices, but they should also be a LIFESTYLE.

PR best practices

Here are three that I think are the most important.

1. Research.

Research is your best friend in PR. Why? Because your client thinks of you as their go-to for all their communications needs. You want to make sure you are well-informed before making communications decisions. You’ll want to conduct research on your client’s competitors so you can see if their competitors appear to have a good relationship with the media, and you’ll want to take a look at the reporters that cover your client’s industry and competitors. Those reporters should be on your media list.

2. Monitoring.

You should always monitor your client’s coverage. Build this into your daily routine, or use monitoring solutions such as Meltwater, Cision, etc. You’ll also want to monitor the news that is relevant to your client. Newsletters are your best friend for this since they’ll come to your inbox. Make sure you make monitoring those a practice. You want to be on top of any news before your client, and, in some cases, you might be able to insert your client into a current story.

3. Strategize.

Another huge part of PR is strategy. While some PR is reactive, it’s always good to be proactive in your thinking, especially when it comes to crisis communications. Make sure you plan for the things that could go wrong (even though we are always hopeful that situations will work within our plan). A good way to plan ahead for potential crises is to have each one of your team members independently brainstorm “What could go wrong in this situation?” and write down their answers. You should at the very least take a look at the final list once everyone has had the chance to brainstorm and make a mental note of how you could navigate each negative situation. Another important PR strategy technique is creating a 3-month PR plan. This will help you stay on track with your current goals and get you thinking about what projects you’d like to carry out in the coming months for your client. Even if a project is two months out, you can start to get the wheels cranking in advance, so you’ll be ready when the time comes to execute the plan.

Anyways, I could probably go on and on for hours, so I’ll stop there. Make sure to check out LCI’s blog for more PR-related content.

Thanks for watching!

Have a comment or question? Comment below, email [email protected] or tweet her @heyitsadavis.

Related Articles:


About Public Relations – PRSA

Public Relations Through the Ages: A Timeline of Social Movements, Technology Milestones and the Rise of the Profession – The Museum of Public Relations

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