Public relations 101: What is PR?

PR image

From time to time, people will ask me what public relations is. To a certain degree, it surprises me because we live in an age when information is so readily available and businesses, organizations and individuals are all concerned about their image. That said, if you’re a small business owner or leading a small nonprofit organization, you might not have a public relations professional on staff –not to mention that you have more pressing priorities than public relations.

So let’s start with a definition from the Public Relations Society of America:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

This is obviously a broad definition, but it encompasses the essence of what McCloud Strategic Communications does for its clients. Now let’s break it down further.

What are “publics”?

Even though the word “publics” comes at the end of the definition, I want to start with it first because I feel it’s most important. You can easily stumble over it, especially if you’re not steeped in the world of PR. Just what are a business’ “publics”? My suggestion is to replace that with any number of words:  customer, stakeholders, residents, community members and so on. Those are the people with whom you communicate in one way or another.

An explanation of “strategic communication process”

Many people are familiar with public relations in the sense of the news media. They see a spokesman who is in front of television cameras, or maybe they have called the local television station or newspaper with a story idea about their business or organization and had a reporter come out to cover it. A one-time news story featuring positive coverage is just that. Chances are good that, despite the good news, it wasn’t part of a strategic communication process that evaluated a business or an organization, determined who its audience is and developed a message that resonated with that audience. This strategic approach will ensure that your business or organization will communicate most effectively with its audience.

Building mutually beneficial relationships

This sounds kind of jargony, doesn’t it? But let’s think about it a minute. Communications has never been a one-way street. And in 2016, that is never been more true because your audience is most likely looking for some kind of relationship with your organization. If your PR is strategic and effective, it will engage your audience in a way that can help them and your organization. PR will help build those relationships and navigate the variety of situations you might find yourself in.

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