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What is Public Relations?

By Garry Crystal
Updated May 16, 2024
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Public relations (PR) is a way for companies, organizations or people to enhance their reputations. This task typically is performed by public relations professionals or PR firms on behalf of their clients. PR usually involves communicating with the media and through the media to present the clients in the most favorable way possible. It also often involves cooperative efforts with other people and organizations to create good will within the community and enhance the client's image.

Image is Important

The business world can be extremely competitive. Companies typically want to have something that makes them stand out from the crowd, something that makes them more appealing and interesting to both members of the public and the media. A favorable image can help increase a company's sales, and negative publicity can damage a company's reputation and decrease sales.

PR Departments

PR can give consumers and the media a better understanding of how a company works. Within a company, a PR department might also be called a public information department or a customer relations department. These departments assist customers if they have any problems with the company. They usually try to show the company at its best. PR departments also might conduct research to learn how satisfied customers are with the company and its products.

Tools Used

There are many tools and methods that a public relations department can use to enhance a company's image. The tools that have been traditionally used include news releases and announcements that are sent to the media, newsletters that are sent to customers and appearances at public events, such as trade shows or conventions. With the proliferation of the Internet, PR departments now can also use tools such as blogs and social media networks to accomplish their goals.

Providing a Positive Spin

Many people have the perception of PR as a way to "spin" news and information, which means to portray the news or information in the best possible way for the company. For example, if a company announces layoffs, its PR department might claim that the company is lowering its costs and making itself more efficient, so it will be better able to serve its customers and offer lower prices. As long as those things are true, then the PR department is doing its job of protecting its reputation and image. Stretching the truth to create a positive spin, however, can end up being detrimental to the company if exaggerations or even half-truths are exposed.

Working in Public Relations

There are certain skills that are helpful for people who work in public relations. These include a high level of communication skills, both written and verbal. A PR person also must be adept at multitasking and time management. He or she might have some form of media background or training to understand how the media works. Organizational and planning skills also are important in public relations.

A PR employee must be able to work well under pressure. He or she must have the ability to answer a barrage of questions from the media and members of the public, if necessary. If a company comes under a verbal attack, it is the PR department that must take control of the situation. The PR department must effectively respond to the criticism to protect the company’s reputation.

A public relations employee usually has a relevant college degree, such as a bachelor's degree in communications, journalism or marketing. Competition for jobs in PR is fierce. A talented public relations worker might be able to work his or her way up from a junior account executive to an account director in about five years. The hours can be long and the job can be stressful, but for successful PR workers, the pay can be good because of the importance that companies place on their reputations.

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Discussion Comments
By anon350891 — On Oct 09, 2013

Passion is a huge part to getting your foot in the door at a franchise PR firm and being knowledgeable in the industry trends. It's just how breaking into the franchise PR industry works.

By anon320138 — On Feb 16, 2013

Discuss five theories under which public relations operates.

By anon308809 — On Dec 12, 2012

I am interested in a career in PR, primarily in entertainment, hotels and restaurants. What are the hours like. Are weekends required? Do you get days off?

By anon293676 — On Sep 27, 2012

I have been selected for a PR post in the hospital industry so please tell me about PR job responsibilities.

By anon285293 — On Aug 15, 2012

I am a field student in one institution on the PR department, and I have been asked to write the responsibilities of PR in general. Can someone assist, please?

By anon253107 — On Mar 08, 2012

Why is understanding important in public relations work?

By anon251411 — On Feb 29, 2012

Best PR firms:

Hill & Knowlton Strategies; Burson Marsteller; Edelman; Fleishman Hillard; Weber Shandwick; Text 100

I'm a PR consultant myself. I would put these firms at the top of my list if you would like working within an international network. Trust me it's a great asset to have and you'll gain international exposure.

By anon250988 — On Feb 28, 2012

I'm a PR student and I would like to know which companies are the best/top companies in the PR field.

By anon245949 — On Feb 07, 2012

Can you give any unethical pr practice situation examples?

By amypollick — On Sep 08, 2011

@anon212688: You can be more effective in customer care by focusing on the individual needs of every customer who seeks your assistance. Ask questions. Find out exactly what your customer needs, and give her to the person who can best assist her, if you can't.

Do *not* transfer people to several departments. This irritates customers and makes them more prone to being nasty to you. Hang on to your temper. Customer service isn't easy all the time, so being able to face difficult people with a smile is a big plus.

The difference between PR and customer care is the big picture versus the individual. Although you are representing your company to every customer you assist, PR is the management of a company's entire image. It's how the world at large sees a company. Customer care, on the other hand, is individual service and assistance to individual customers who need your help.

Having said that, I will also say that good customer service is like gold for your company. No amount of money can buy the goodwill and good word of mouth advertising that good customer service can. Having the PR reputation of being a caring company, for example, should always be backed up by employees providing caring customer service. Although they serve different functions, PR and customer care are closely intertwined.

By anon212688 — On Sep 08, 2011

I just got a customer care job, and I want to know how i can be an effective customer care officer, and what is the difference between customer care and public relations.

By anon212313 — On Sep 06, 2011

I got an assignment on public relations. The question is as follows: PR effectiveness depends on good planning. Can anyone help me?

By anon189903 — On Jun 24, 2011

i am a PR in government sites But I want to know more about government PR and private organization PR. so your ideas will help me in doing my work properly.

By anon160860 — On Mar 17, 2011

I'm doing research on public relations in universities. I'm finding it very hard to apply a topic so huge to my university, or at any other! any thoughts on that?

By anon158174 — On Mar 06, 2011

PR is very important for any organization. however, since the world is stepping into a new digital world where many business activities are happening online. It gave birth to a new topic. i.e. ORM (Online Reputation Management) which is in parallel with PR. Thank you. --Jerry

By anon157495 — On Mar 03, 2011

I went to a journalism school and pursued broadcast journalism and also PR, but i need more assistance in the PR field in terms of books and guidance. thank you and may God bless you all for your hard work.

By anon157236 — On Mar 02, 2011

Does the PR vary between age group? Why?

By anon153224 — On Feb 16, 2011

Please help. i have a degree in PR but i worked as a flight attendant but i know i want to work in my major but i don't know how to begin. by the way, i live in beirut but i don't know which skills i should improve and where should i train myself.

By anon151685 — On Feb 11, 2011

Professional public relations practice is quite rare in my country. What strategies should I employ to create awareness especially for those large corporations?

By anon144368 — On Jan 19, 2011

Good lord! Half of you asking questions about the pr industry need not apply!If you guys cannot even type out a question which someone who speaks normal English can't understand, then good luck writing a press release or client/patient newsletter if you even got hired. Not going to happen!

By Aarakit Vicky — On Dec 19, 2010

how do i get free on line public relations notes?

By anon127736 — On Nov 17, 2010

please help me discuss the functions of public relations. help me also know how to approach similar questions.

By anon127681 — On Nov 17, 2010

public relations should also be viewed as the watchman of a company's products.

By anon122484 — On Oct 28, 2010

what are the elements of communication?

By anon114848 — On Sep 30, 2010

I have just enrolled as a pr student. I would like to receive educational materials on the same and the relevant books that will be of support to me.

By anon106260 — On Aug 24, 2010

PR is the same as propaganda.

By anon105334 — On Aug 20, 2010

I have an assignment that deals with the following:

The place and role of public relations in Environmental Health.

Aspects that should be addressed:

1. What is meant by environmental health public relations?

2. How can public relations improve the quality of environmental health service delivery?

3. What are the various public relations options?

Can I please get some guidance and assistance in the above assignment? I would really appreciate it.

By anon103546 — On Aug 12, 2010

I'm getting into public relations, and I'm just a senior in high school. would it be better to take communications as my major or journalism?

By anon103437 — On Aug 12, 2010

PR is a tool for effective administration in an organization. Discuss.

By anon101890 — On Aug 05, 2010

what is the difference between public relations and customer care?

By anon101801 — On Aug 05, 2010

what are the pr jobs in an organization? what quality should PR have?

By anon101785 — On Aug 05, 2010

Please help me to know about pr and how can i be fruitful to people by maintaining public relations.

By anon101141 — On Aug 02, 2010

explain the four pivotal developments that spurred the emergence of the relational perspective of public relations.

By anon100208 — On Jul 29, 2010

I have just completed my pg diploma course in mass communication and i want a little bit more information in public relations in hindi language.

By anon95281 — On Jul 12, 2010

what is the difference between pr and publicity?

By anon93649 — On Jul 05, 2010

i need to discuss the importance of doing research in getting public opinion and the important of media relations in communicating with the public campaign.

By anon92541 — On Jun 28, 2010

I just wanted to know if someone can tell me an example in today's society, what is good public relations and bad public relations.

By anon91137 — On Jun 20, 2010

please answer my question. This is my assignment for public relations and office management.

This are the questions:

Definition of PR and OM?

Different forms or components of PR?

Different OM functions?

Examples of two and three. Thanks.

By anon88841 — On Jun 07, 2010

Please, give me advice how to study PR online?

By anon87906 — On Jun 02, 2010

Please i am a PR student and i have been asked to the discuss the importance of CSR. Please i need help seriously.

By anon85624 — On May 21, 2010

I want to do work in pr. Please tell me the process and what is the job of a successful PR person.

By anon84444 — On May 15, 2010

I have just landed a job in PR and have not studied or ever worked in the industry before. i have excellent people skills and i know i will be able to do this job but, any advice on the know how?

By anon84398 — On May 15, 2010

my dream is to become pr and broadcaster. can it be possible? Please i need help because i would be having my interview next week which would aid me becoming pr practitioner. I want clues concerning this interview.

By anon82073 — On May 04, 2010

what is the difference between public relations and traditional public relations?

By anon80886 — On Apr 29, 2010

Would you help me please, how to be a successful PR person?

By anon79854 — On Apr 25, 2010

you have to major in journalism first. Communication as second choice if journalism is not offered.

By anon77773 — On Apr 15, 2010

boy oh boy, am i up to my knees struggling to do my pr assignment on identifying opportunities arising from the world cup. i don't know where to start.

By anon77455 — On Apr 14, 2010

I'm a student and want to study p.r so i need help because i don't know what kind of a job I might do or where one will work so please help me understand what p.r. is.

By anon77345 — On Apr 14, 2010

i want to study pr. I am a kenyan, but soon i will be leaving for USA. i want to study online as per and even after i have gone to USA.

By anon73935 — On Mar 30, 2010

I am studying PR and I need help on how to design a detailed public relations programme on the spate of xenophobia in SA and the negative impact that causes.

By anon73931 — On Mar 30, 2010

Please, what is the difference between public relations and publicity?

By anon70191 — On Mar 12, 2010

Dear - anon64810, Planning in PR is just like planning for anything. Basically, it involves deciding ahead of time what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. Organizational and time-management skills are very helpful, if not essential in achieving what one plans successfully.

By anon64810 — On Feb 09, 2010

Most definitions of PR mentioned planning. what is this concept of this planning in PR?

By anon61388 — On Jan 19, 2010

I am currently enrolled in a public relations writing course at my university. The definition of public relations listed above may be true to some extent, however, the real definition of public relations is as follows: the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans, executes and evaluates a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.

By anon60556 — On Jan 14, 2010

can anyone help with the meaning of corporate identity?

By anon60120 — On Jan 12, 2010

i a student studying public relations and i ready need help. can anyone help me with some real notes on public relations?

By anon59581 — On Jan 09, 2010

PR protector is a great service that has helped protect my company when we were receiving harsh consumer complaints in websites such as rip off reports and scam websites. We later found out that the reports were falsely being generated and they were eventually removed.

By din — On Jan 09, 2010

i am student doing an assignment on the difference between public relations and corporate identity. can anyone help? I am stuck.

By anon58242 — On Dec 31, 2009

Please help me with my project work and send me something about the pr (public relations) information so i can make my project.

i really want to know it i and my group were gone to SBI bank, bank of baroda, and the dena bank, and also we have gone to the bank of india but they said nothing and they also tell that we don't have any zone which can related to you zone and they send us to malad.

By anon55625 — On Dec 08, 2009

Found this article very useful as I'm doing an essay on pr at university.

By anon53999 — On Nov 26, 2009

it is a very interesting way of informing people which i need to join.

By anon53902 — On Nov 25, 2009

please explain the basic aim of pr.

By mmo — On Nov 18, 2009

Hi iam just curious about if someone could really learn PR without taking Pen and Book?


By anon52554 — On Nov 15, 2009

I am currently doing a major in communication but after my graduation i want to do a diploma in PR and cooperate communications. Would this kick start my career in the PR world? And what should my majors and minors be?

By anon52430 — On Nov 14, 2009

I am a student at a university and would like to know the difference between public relations and publicity.

By anon51747 — On Nov 09, 2009

can you work in PR for the fashion world?

By anon50374 — On Oct 28, 2009

I work with an organization. How best can I do my public relations?

By anon48788 — On Oct 15, 2009

Public relations appeals to public perception, thrives in public acceptance and driven towards public persuasion. Marketing is for public retention. Public relations is for public perceptive acceptance driven persuasion. Hope this answers most of your questions. Cheers! By: Paul Mendinueto Public Relations Philippines

By Dan212 — On Oct 12, 2009

I am trying to go to school for public relations but I don't know what to major in. Communications? Phsyc? anyone have ideas?

By anon42451 — On Aug 21, 2009

Am a student and just want to know the different between customer care and public relations.

By anon41912 — On Aug 18, 2009

Hi! Are there any professional exams on PR that one can take from Nigeria?

By anon41601 — On Aug 16, 2009

I am a PR practitioner in a tertiary education institution in Ghana. I have an MA degree in communication studies and an accedicted member of the institute of public relations, Ghana. my frustration as a practitioner is that i am not accepted all by management to play the required role no matter how much i try. my question is, how do i gain acceptance to make the strides?

By anon41317 — On Aug 14, 2009

My question is not necessarily about this article. I would like assistance on how to answer this question: Explain the synergy between public relations and marketing by referring to the role of public relations in the marketing mix and marketing communication.

By anon41152 — On Aug 13, 2009

i am a PR in government office But I want to know more about government PR and private organization PR. so your idea will help me in doing my work properly. Please try to send me books or any material about PR.

By anon38881 — On Jul 29, 2009

are there internationally recognized professional exams on PR done in Nigeria within a short period, and if yes what does it entail, where do i get the necessary information and when do i begin? Thanks

By anon36999 — On Jul 16, 2009

I study english and history in a university and would like to know if i can work with a public relations office after my degree or have to specialize in pr?

By anon33261 — On Jun 03, 2009

I am a PR major and I am about to graduate next year. To be honest, any minor works well with a public relations major because public relations exists in all aspects of every organazation, institution or association. Typically, like mentioned above, many PR majors choose advertising or marketing as their minor to combine with their major. However, that is not a necessary because in many colleges' marketing and advertising is already in the curriculum for the required PR classes to graduate. I myself choose recreation & leisure as a minor because I would really enjoy working in the travel/hospitality industry.

By Parkergee — On May 20, 2009

What is effective PR in the entertainment industry???

By anon28397 — On Mar 16, 2009

Every organization exists on public relations. Discuss.

By jamesmonday — On Feb 10, 2009

what is a pr copy?

By fbird1 — On Jan 22, 2009

The definition of Public Relations is: It is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interest, and plans, executes, and evaluates a program of action to earn understanding and acceptance.

By senior09 — On Jan 06, 2009

i am a senior and i dream of becoming a PR one day what do i need to major in, in order to become a PR

By anon21353 — On Nov 14, 2008

I am going into college and I have dreams of the PR world. What should my majors and minors be to successfully go through with my career choice.

By terryb56789 — On Nov 05, 2008

what are some ethical concerns in public relations?

By anon20628 — On Nov 03, 2008

I'm currently in college as well and I am also a PR major. I was curious to see what minors I should take to better assist my PR major. My options are a minor in advertising or a double minor in graphic design and psychology. Any Suggestions?!

By anon20610 — On Nov 03, 2008

I am a college student writing a paper on public relations and found this article to be the most helpful.

By anon18302 — On Sep 18, 2008

this has been very helpful!!!

I am a college student working project and this was the only website that helped me understand what exactly i need to do.

By apolo72 — On Jun 12, 2008

I'd argue that a healthy dose of charisma would help the PR person. You probably want to be a pretty good people person if you want to be a successful PR person because where your responses or arguments fall flat, your ability to schmooze might help you get through some tough criticism or challenges.

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