What is Public Relations Anyway?
By Cynthia Hurtado, Intern
What is Public Relations Anyway?
As graduation season quickly approaches, many students will be faced with the infamous question; what did you major in? Unlike other somewhat obvious majors like computer science or history, public relations students are usually asked a follow up question regarding their major; what exactly is that? It seems that the general public has a better understanding on what marketing and advertising are, not realizing that public relations influences them just as much or maybe even more than those two fields. So the question remains, what is public relations anyway? And what do public relations professionals even do?
Here it is, according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), they define public relations as:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Simply put, public relations specialists help a brand, a person or any other entity communicate with their audience in a way that is beneficial to both the brand and their public. It is worth noting that in the public relations field, the coverage one gets is earned coverage. Unlike marketing and advertising, which usually pay for time slots or some form of coverage for their clients. Public relations professionals spend endless hours, not money, to get their client in the media and in the public eye. Whether it is through pitching, a press release or an event, the main job of a PR pro is to let the public know their client is there. This brings me to my next point, and possibly the third question asked to many public relations graduates; what is it that public relations specialist even do?
The answer can get a little tricky here. Aside from all the writing and brainstorming that comes with the job, a public relations professional wears many hats. From planning events, managing crises, researching, social media, reaching out to the media and everything in between, depending on where you work, chances are as a public relations specialist your job will somehow align to the aforementioned. Gone are the days where a press release and a phone call were enough, if they ever were. And with the Internet and social media, gone are the days where you work nine to five for a client.
With all the tasks included in the position how do you, as a professional even begin to explain to someone that you do more than write a press release and deal with the media? There really is no clear answer to that. Coming from immigrant parents, it has been hard getting them to understand what exactly it is that I do and what exactly it is that I majored in. One thing is clear however, public relations is a very diverse field. You can focus solely on more serious parts of the field like crisis management and public affairs or be more on the entertainment or fashion side of things. So when answering the question of what it is that a public relations specialist does, it can easily be catered to your designated sub field.
In the end it is not about what you majored in and what it is you will do. Like any other major, it is about the skills you have learned to do an exceptional job and kill it in the field.