What is PR?

By Michael Lane, Senior Vice President, N.Y.

As both professionals and an industry, we revel in our own mysteriousness. That’s why there’s so much confusion around how PR is defined.

Time and again I’m asked by friends, family or people I meet: “just what is it that you do again?” People not associated with a marketing profession have a hard time grasping what public relations is and isn’t. For that matter, many of us up to our necks in PR aren’t any wiser.

Advertising has it easy. People understand what an ad is and can connect the logical dots between images, copy writing and media buying. That’s because it’s sensory — as consumers we experience it everyday on TV, billboards, online and the radio. But we can say the same thing about PR . . . it’s all around us, all the time. With the exception of investigative journalism I seriously doubt that any story read, seen or heard today didn’t have someone behind the scenes pulling the strings. It’s just not overt. And yet take a sampling of people across a given PR agency and they’ll be hard pressed to give you a succinct or consistent definition of what we do.

For those of us who focus on B2B and vertical programs, PR activities seem pretty straightforward: media and analysts relations, contributed articles, speaking opportunities, quarterly newsletters, media training . . . but it’s not cut and dried.

For many clients PR stands for “Press Release” and that’s an incredibly shallow and ineffective way to look at things. But it’s a perception that has always been there. A perception that sets strategy, dictates expectation, and minimizes value into the form of a document and a deliverable. Our mediascape is changing and traditional methodologies with it. Will the majority of us be able to adapt to a world where slapping a strap line, quote and boiler plate together isn’t enough? If we want to survive through the next decade, we don’t have much of a choice.

An evolution in PR, … (read more)

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