What is Public Relations all about?

Have you ever watched television or scrolled social media and thought, “That’s just PR”? Public relations is sometimes derided as “spin” or “just PR.” But every company and organization is engaged in PR, and by and large, what public relations is all about isn’t disingenuous.

So, what is public relations actually about? So many things:

  • Reputation.
  • Management.
  • Strategy.
  • Relationships.
  • Leverage.

And most importantly, trust and integrity.

Good Public Relations is Intentional and Proactive

Public relations can be understood as reputation management, something we are all engaged in on an individual level – just take a look at Instagram for a PR view of other people’s lives.

You can also think of it as intentional relationship management: The actions a company takes to develop trust with stakeholders, customers, and the public in general.

Good PR is not about burying negative media stories or blocking commenters on Instagram. PR done well is a management function focused on strategy and is fully integrated with the operational activities of the company.

For many companies, the practice of PR comes during times of crisis – a negative news story or social media backlash. In those times, the company is reacting to a narrative it doesn’t have a voice in anymore.

Effective PR – proactively shaping the narrative and developing strategic relationships – is more like depositing money in a savings account. And it begins at the management table.

Good Public Relations is Strategic

A strategic PR plan arises from the company’s mission and current objectives. PR’s job is to communicate the company’s activities internally and to external groups, which can include everything from customers, to elected officials, to donors, to bloggers.

The results of effective PR include far more than media coverage. A strategic campaign can position the company as a leading voice in its community or industry. If you want to be quoted as an expert, public relations is the process of building credibility as that expert.

It’s also about access – opening doors and connecting the company with people who can impact the company’s objectives. A thoughtful PR strategy will enhance a company’s leverage and ability to execute its priorities. In other words, PR can be used so that “when we call, they answer.”

Good Public Relations Builds Trust

Fundamentally, public relations is about building trust. When reputation management goes wrong, it’s often an issue of broken trust: A company or brand hasn’t lived up to its promises or standards.

Similarly, the worst PR crises occur when a company’s integrity is in question – when what the company says about itself does not match what the company is actually doing.

A proactive strategy begins aims to maintain integrity between the company’s mission and values, its actions, and what it says about its actions.

That’s what public relations is all about – no spin necessary.

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