What is PR anyway?

So many times when I mention majoring in Public Relations, I get the head nod, the “mmm” or the plain blank face.

Unless you have studied some sort of communication or heard it from a movie, no one really knows much about it except that it’s “like marketing”.

I agree that they go hand in hand, but for those of you who aren’t quite sure- I’ll do my best to explain.

First of all, yes, public relations and marketing are similar. The difference between the two can be put simply, although I’m sure some could nitpick over the details. That’s good. You need to know the details of your industry.

Public Relations serves to create relationships between organizations and publics- and have them become mutually beneficial. For example: If I’m doing PR work for your company- the “Help Kids Association”, then I want the communities that are affected by us to know, believe and act upon the messages I’m trying to get across. At the same time, I want them to respond so we can react. The goal here is to strengthen the bond.

In marketing, there is an expectation of exchange with the public. The message is also usually driven straight to the consumer. If I’m doing marketing work for a company, then I want the target audience to exchange something. For example: I am marketing your Best Day Spa Ever services. The goal here is to get the audience receiving the message to purchase some services.

The difference is: If some kind of exchange is made in the first example, then it is a bonus but not the end goal.

Both areas of communication are effective and they can be used as complements to each other in conjunction or separately when a company decides what works best for them.

Then, the next question arises: Isn’t PR the same as advertising?

Again, no. And again, similar. In Public Relations, we construct the message and choose the angle we’re trying to portray, but we have no say over how it’s used. For example: If I write a press release to get the word out about my Help Kids Association, I can write the best release in the world but the reporter that receives it has control over how it runs after I send it out. They may keep it as it is or change it up.

In advertising, the message is paid for and therefore gets to say what the company wants. If I’m sending an ad to a newspaper and I’m paying for it to be placed, then I will have the control over how it runs.

Simple enough?

I hope so. I had no idea what it really was until I started doing my research and of course, that Principles of Public Relations course. All it took was some simple explanation like this for me to be able to see the differences clearly. I still have much to learn, and I can’t express the value of research enough!

It never hurts to know a little bit more.

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