Public relations may be best described as the practice of managing the dissemination of information between an individual or organization and the public. It is a little different from advertising which requires a direct payment, and the idea of public relations is actually to create free coverage for their clients.
Public relations aim to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders with a goal of positively influencing them about the organization they are working for.
The work of PR agencies is to establish and maintain relationships with an organization’s target audience and the media and this is accomplished through several standard vehicles.
They might include communications campaigns, press releases, speeches or campaign materials, website and social media content and both internal and external communications.
1. History of public relations
Public relations have been around for a long time. It just wasn’t always called that. But since the early 1920s the term has come into the popular lexicon. The rise of public relations also has a dark side since both the Nazis and the Allies used propaganda, a crude form of public relations, to rally domestic support and demonize enemies during the World Wars.
A more positive version of public relations emerged in the second half of the 1900s. This is when many trade associations, PR news magazines, international PR agencies, and academic principles for the profession were established.
2. Types of public relations
There are many specific types of public relations professionals that operate within roughly defined areas. Those might include:
- Financial and business public relations that focuses mainly on communicating financial results and business strategy.
- Consumer public relations that works to try and gain publicity for a particular product or service.
- Crisis communications to help individuals or companies respond to an emergency or crisis situation.
- Internal communications that assists organizations to communicate with their staff and stakeholders.
- Government relations that seeks to influence public policy on behalf of a client.
- Media relations which is the public relations function of building and maintaining relationships with the news media on behalf of a client.
3. Audience targeting
One of the basics of all forms of public relations is to identify the target audience and then craft messages that will be relevant to them. All messages should be relevant to each other and thereby help to create a consistent message and theme.
4. Stakeholder management
This is the work of identifying and influencing the people who have a stake in a given institution or issue. This is important because these people can help to make or break a campaign or initiative and require PR professionals with deep skills in media relations, market positioning, and branding.
Messaging is the process of creating a consistent story around: a product, person, company, or service. Messaging aims to avoid having readers receive contradictory or confusing information that will in still doubt in their purchasing choices, or other decisions that affect the company. Brands aim to have the same problem statement, industry viewpoint, or brand perception shared across sources and media.
6. Social media marketing
Social media marketing is the new baby of public relations and includes the use of Internet tools and technologies including search engines and optimization of websites, new media relations and blogging and social media marketing. This is really just an extension of the traditional outreach tools that PR professionals have practiced and mastered in TV, radio, and magazines to promote their clients and get their messages out to a broader audience.