What is PR?
According to the authoritative text book Effective Public Relations by Cutlip & Center, “Public relations is a management function that seeks to identify, build, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and all of the publics on whom its success or failure depends.”
Although an unregulated field (as opposed to accounting or law), contemporary Public Relations is led by seasoned experts who have coalesced to offer Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), which experienced Public Relations professionals can attain through an extensive process of peer review, recommendation and testing. About 20% of practitioners nationwide are Accredited.
The practice of Public Relations has been in existence throughout history, but its emergence during the 19th century became evident when wealthy Industrialists routinely hired men to represent their endeavors and companies to the public primarily through the print media. Generally speaking, the first practitioners were dubbed “publicists” as they mainly communicated targeted messages through publicity. It became commonplace with traveling shows and politicians, as well, to employ publicists.
Today the field of Public Relations has become as complex and sophisticated as the society in which it is practiced. The various “publics” are internal and external stakeholders and influencers of an entity and the relations occur through myriad methods and media. Typically, a public relations practitioner is one who is knowledgeable of the strategies and tactics to implement in order to create and grow positive relationships with the various relevant publics of an entity or endeavor. An experienced PR practitioner can navigate and leverage the New Media (electronic and social media), while bridging the transition between traditional print methodology and personal interfacing with the ever-expanding digital realm.
Much overlap exists among marketing, communications, social media and traditional Public Relations. Experts in the field purport Public Relations to be the umbrella under which all communication resides, including marketing and advertising and social media. Various communications niches provide specialized Public Relations, such as government-related Public Affairs and Public Information, Investor Relations, Donor, Relations, Community Relations, Corporate Communications, et al.
Respected Public Relations Practitioners have certain attributes that contribute to their success. Expertise, integrity, accountability, reliability, propriety and reciprocity are virtues possessed by well-regarded and accomplished Public Relations professionals.
Though general perception often dubs an extroverted, glib and well-presented person to be “good at PR,” this murky allusion to the field reveals the over-simplified understanding of the scope, body of knowledge and complex and integral role that PR plays in society. In actuality, Public Relations requires in-depth study, applied research, mentoring and strategic thinking.
Many references are readily accessible online for study and independent contractors are available everywhere for consultation and hire. The Public Relations Society of America, the International Public Relations Association and the International Association of Business Communicators are just a few among the primary professional associations for Public Relations.