What is PR and Why is Public Relations Important?

Samantha from Sex in the City is still one of the most iconic public relations professionals on network television; an iconic character that is also fictional. Her profession seemed to exude glamour and excitement. Samantha never failed to mention the lavish parties she attended on Tuesday nights and certainty didn’t miss an opportunity to network with the most attractive men at the bar.

Samantha is not a credible example of a public relations professional.

What is PR?

Public relations sits under the umbrella of communications and marketing. It is considered earned media in the world of traditional media. Unlike advertising, which is paid, public relations relies on a good story and the genuine interest of journalists.

Although PR professionals are often referred to as spin doctors, that isn’t the goal of most working in the field. Persuasion and deception are against the Public Relations Code of Ethics. Public relations professionals have a commitment to their clients and the public to truthfully promote their clients by third-party endorsements (journalists and media professionals). The Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) definition of PR is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

What Does a Publicist Do?

Publicists are the middlemen between the public and their client. They strategically target media opportunities and outlets in order to get their clients press. Being a publicist can include daily activities like event planning, pitching producers and journalists, building relationships with the media, and creating social media campaigns in an ever-evolving digital world.

Although not all publicists are a varying version of Samantha, many can experience a somewhat “glamorous” career. When working with the media or large clients, publicists often have to form meaningful and professional relationships with a wide range of people, many of whom work for well known brands, news outlets, or networks.

Why is Public Relations Important?

Businesses constantly want to see ROI and functions like advertising are much easier to measure. For example, if Nike is running an advertisement on ABC at prime time, Nielsen can measure the reach and numbers of the audience tuned in. Although advertising is important to any business, public relations serves a far broader purpose. In contrast, public relations professionals aim to get their client genuine press coverage and exposure, and this is what makes public relations important. When a consumer sees a television ad, they know the company has paid and produced the content. When a journalist writes an article about a client because they have an interesting story or their product is filling a hole in the market, the journalist is giving a third-party endorsement. They’re not paid but rather choosing to highlight a business, brand or person.

It’s crucial to know the importance of public relations whether you’re a business owner, consumer or young professional looking to get into the field. Having the ability to determine the difference between paid and earned media is a significant skill for anyone. Although the common misconception of publicists is that they’re spin doctors and alter the truth to fool the public, we’re here to tell you that our profession is far from such. What a publicist does is work to generate awareness of clients and respectfully earn the attention of the public. We hope this has answers your questions on what is PR and why it’s important!

—By Alyx Sealy, Assistant Account Executive

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