What is Public Relations? The Definition of PR

In this article, we provide a definition and meaning of what is PR and its role in the marketing approach. We touch on what PR specialists do and the different forms of public relations, both positive and negative. It is often confused with other communication practices. To avoid this, we look at the differences between public relations and other forms of marketing.

published: March 22, 2022
updated: September 24, 2023

What is Public Relations (PR)?

PR is the strategic communications process that sets out to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between two or more parties.

PR (Public Relations) can be defined as the strategic management of communication between an organization and its various stakeholders, including the public, media, investors, employees, and other relevant parties. PR encompasses a wide range of activities and tactics aimed at building and maintaining a positive reputation, enhancing brand awareness, managing crises, and fostering positive relationships with key audiences. It involves crafting compelling messaging, leveraging media channels, organizing events, and engaging with stakeholders to influence perceptions, shape public opinion, and achieve organizational objectives. Ultimately, PR serves as a vital tool for organizations to communicate effectively, build credibility, and establish trust with their stakeholders in an increasingly interconnected and transparent world.

For example, this can be a relationship between a company and their public (customers, consumers, general public), a business-to-business (B2B) relationship, or a relationship your company has with specific journalists.

The concept of PR includes, in its definition, practices like media requests, shareholder and social concerns, information about the company, questions regarding the brand, and the brand’s image.

What is PR? Definition of Public Relations.

What do you mean by PR?

What is public relations? Well public relations is the process of managing and sharing information from an individual or company to the relevant public or target audience to influence their perception for the best. Check out the video below.

What is the role of public relations?

Now we know the meaning of PR, let's look at its purpose. PR aims to generate mutually beneficial relationships by engaging with third parties for various purposes. In this sense, PR tactics are also famously implemented to develop, grow, enhance and protect reputations.

The idea of public relations is that a person, company, or brand is presented to the public in the best light possible.

This is done by daily practices by PR professionals such as generating good press coverage and suggesting business decisions that gain the support of the general public. PR is defined as amplifying a brand’s image using organic methods. As an example, positioning a thought leader - a name and a face to represent the company. This adds value to the company image by attaching beliefs and movements that the brand supports. The brand image could also be about new ideas in the industry, and expertise in whatever the industry is. These practices are extremely impactful for companies that have shareholders. Publicly listed companies are valued based on the public’s trust in the company in question.

Learn more about how to get media coverage

Types of Public Relations

1

Media relations

Creating a good relationship with the relevant professional media, acting as their content source and updating them on a campaign.

Learn more about media relations
2

Investor relations

Overseeing relations between the company and corporate investors. Here, investor events, the release of financial reports, and complaints and queries of investors are handled.

3

Production relations

This ties in with the direct running of a company. This department supports the firm’s wider marketing endeavors and is often linked to specific campaigns and new or improved product launches.

4

Government relations

Representing the brand to government agencies regarding the management and fulfillment of policies and legal obligations, for example, fair competition and employee rights etc.

5

Internal relations

This branch handles relations between the company and its employees. So items such as employee counseling, satisfaction with working conditions and, rather importantly, the mediation of any issues between the sides to avoid public disclosure of private corporate information.

6

Community relations

This would be industry-specific, and is used in the management of the social and community aspects of the brand. In areas such as an education program or the environment. This department is key to getting people ‘on the side’.

7

Customer relations

This department’s responsibility is the task of managing key relationships and addressing customer concerns. They would also carry out market research to understand customer wants and expectations, before a campaign.

Want to successfully engage the media?

Strong media relations is key to successful public relations

Get a free quote now

Why is PR Important?

PR is important as it is the driving force in building trust.

Reputation management, a key part of building trust for organizations, is a long-term process and not something that can be achieved with a one-off campaign program

It needs to be constantly reviewed and maintained to solidify credibility. A PR team will build relations in new, international and current markets. Here are some other key reasons why PR is important:

Building and maintaining a strong brand

PR helps to grow and nurture a brand. It takes a well-planned strategy, a thorough understanding of the market, and a strong backstory to do this. An organization needs to know why it exists. And the answer shouldn't be just money. What do you stand for? This vision and mission should be the backbone of all communication. It is this that forms your brand's reputation. Each announcement surrounding a brand is crafted to help the brand's image. It is how your audience sees you. The purpose of PR is to build and maintain this.

Bringing brand values to life

As the purpose of public relations is to manage reputation through the careful management and sharing of information, PR is perfectly positioned to highlight your brand's values. Values are essential for creating shared meaning. What a firm stands for is important. These values can connect and resonate with their own beliefs. This is increasingly important today. Strong brand values mean stronger leads and an enhanced sales ledger.

Thought leadership (or executive leadership)

Being interviewed or quoted in key media outlets helps to establish you as an expert at what you do. PR is great at establishing credibility, and whatever industry you're in, you'll need it to be successful.

Often achieved through thought leadership articles, interviews, and LinkedIn posts, executive leadership is often 'responsible' for sharing their opinions, deciphering data, challenging norms, or narrating a concept or a particular event. Being well-known as a thought leader means your peers and the public will look up to you. A stamp of approval from your peers or coverage in a high-tier publication is invaluable for building trust.

Employer branding

It takes more than customers to keep the firm going. Successful PR helps acquire and retain great people and high-performers who will impact your bottom line. Being mentioned in the news also builds a sense of pride and motivation among existing employees and fosters a strong work culture. This won't go unnoticed by investors and stakeholders, who will be taking note. It's certainly a win-win.

Investor relations

Another important aspect of doing public relations is to attracting investment. Elevated brand prominence can spark media interest and develop a buzz in the marketplace around your offering. Being positioned as a frontrunner is a great way for your product to begin and for you to gain a competitive advantage. Securing investment can expand your business into new territories, allow you to hire more people, or even conduct important research and development.

Global expansion

If you’re looking to take your business across borders, global PR can support you in expanding into new markets by adapting messaging and communication strategies to resonate with diverse cultural and linguistic audiences, fostering international growth and market penetration.

Global PR support plays a crucial role in localization when expanding across borders by ensuring that messaging and communication strategies resonate with diverse cultural and linguistic audiences in new markets. Here's how:

  • Language adaptation: PR teams work with translators or multilingual professionals to accurately translate messaging and content into the local language, ensuring clarity, accuracy, and cultural relevance. This linguistic localization helps overcome language barriers and ensures that the brand's message resonates effectively with the target audience.
  • Tailored content: Global PR support involves creating localized content that speaks directly to the interests, preferences, and needs of the target market. This may include adapting storytelling techniques, imagery, and examples to reflect local context and resonate with the cultural mindset of the audience.
  • Media relations: PR professionals establish relationships with local media outlets, journalists, bloggers, and influencers to secure coverage and endorsements that are relevant and impactful in the new market. They understand the media landscape and preferences of each market, pitching stories and angles that align with local interests and trends.
  • Community engagement: Global PR support involves engaging with local communities through culturally relevant initiatives, events, and partnerships. This fosters a sense of connection and belonging, building trust and credibility for the brand within the new market.

Brand awareness

Through PR, it is possible to gain increased online brand visibility, as digital content lives longer than print media. Online articles can generate continuous exposure for the brand. Getting links from online sources is also possible, supporting the brand’s SEO performance. An experienced media relations approach is also important in increasing credibility and managing relationships with journalists. PR managers aim to get positive, quality coverage for their clients. Healthy media relations are important in PR to assist in getting valuable news to target audiences

For startup businesses that may not have the funds to make an impact using advertising, PR can make all the difference on a tight budget. It can make a name for the brand in a cost-efficient way. PR can also support community building that allows for the target audience on social media to react and reply, thus going back and forth with engagement. Loyalty can be built as a result of the strong engagement methods that PR teams exercise.

Learn more about why is PR important

What does PR involve?

Identifying target audiences

Knowing your target audience is key to successful outreach and to optimize your resources. PR professionals are there to gather data for you, as well. This is possible through website analytics, which can break down website traffic by geo and demographic dimensions, helping you assess your audience and give your communications a focus.

What falls under the responsibility of PR can be unclear. Many still think of it as advertising. While PR involves promoting clients and their products, PR's role is to do this via unpaid or earned means. Obtaining coverage, getting press releases and thought leadership articles published, and managing reputation through careful information dissemination is how. Here is a short list of what PR can involve.

Competitor research

PR professionals will research the competition, see what competitors publish and where, what works for them, and then formulate a strategy. Pay attention to competitor websites and use media monitoring tools to discover when your competitors get mentioned and hear their conversations. See if you can use this to your advantage and differentiate yourself from them. The process is important for other reasons, too. It can uncover insights you wouldn't have seen, and the research can yield other unexpected industry insights.

Media pitches

PR involves outreach to journalists, pitching them client stories so they can feature them in their publications. When your story is highlighted or covered, it will attract attention and help win customers who will see that what you’ve said is important enough to be given airtime. It is possible to engage new stakeholders this way, also. A successful media pitch will help you spread the word about your story, gain credibility, and boost your SEO.

Storytelling

Professionals in public relations specialize in fostering relationships between an organization and its public by carefully crafting communication and creating stories. Storytelling goes beyond a standard press release and industry jargon. It exists to share genuine narratives that resonate with your target audience, speaking to them in a way that gets their attention and makes them care about what you have to say. PR professionals create compelling stories with numbers and data, the business environment, and by using the world and news around them.

  • Content creation and distribution: After crafting a brand story, PR professionals leverage different channels and platforms to distribute this content effectively, reaching target audiences and generating engagement.

Brand positioning and messaging

PR professionals work on developing and refining the brand's positioning and messaging to ensure consistency and alignment with overall strategic objectives. This involves articulating the brand's value proposition, differentiation, and unique selling points to resonate with target audiences and stakeholders.

Relationship building and networking

PR is about building and nurturing relationships with various stakeholders, including journalists, influencers, industry experts, customers, investors, and community members. PR professionals engage in networking activities, attend industry events, and cultivate connections to enhance the brand's visibility and credibility.

Crisis management

In the digital era, anyone can say anything about you anytime. Even the most highly regarded firms often have to do damage control. A crisis represents the potential to erode customer trust and undo the work you've done to create a strong brand. PR can turn a company's reputation around. When a company has a crisis, PR can come to the rescue and help them recover, sending our pre-prepared statements, helping companies enact a crisis management plan and communicating to customers and the public to offer reassurance.

Want to learn more about how PR can benefit your business?

See how our PR services can help you extend your reach

Contact us

What is a PR specialist?

A PR specialist is someone who helps brands nurture a positive image for the public by creating, planning and executing PR strategies. This can include various promotional campaigns through different channels and formats, such as social media, press releases and real-life engagements.

Learn more about PR specialist

What degree is useful to work in PR?

There are many routes into a PR career.

Public relations, journalism, political science, marketing and communications are all valid.

But it's worth noting nothing is set in stone regarding this.

What skills are required?

PR requires the need for softer skills, such as strong oral communication and problem-solving. Strong written skills are essential too. The ability to negotiate is desired, as you manage resources, team conflict and financial matters.

You’ll need to work to keep multiple parties happy to get people to work towards a common goal. Time management is also an essential skill. Poor planning means overall campaign objectives are less likely to be met, or delayed. Forward planning and mitigation of anticipated hurdles are key to a successful career in PR. Anticipating issues before they arise prevents delays.Timeliness is essential to clients and effective project management skills are a must-have.

Depending on the area you work within, industry knowledge and expertise go a long way to building trust with clients, and are invaluable.

Positive PR

Positive PR is the byproduct of a proactive company. PR specialists work to shape the brand’s reputation and present it in a positive light. This includes anything the brand is related to - its ideas, product, achievements, people, or leaders.

The role of positive PR is to improve how the audience perceives the brand and what it's associated with.

Positive public relations builds on the values and beliefs of the brand. For example, in the healthcare and medicine field, it will create a campaign to raise awareness for an important topic in healthcare. This way, the brand will not only be seen as supportive of the topic but also build a reputation for acting on it.

Examples of positive PR exercises

  • Campaigns to raise awareness
  • Data-driven press release indicating organizational action/achievements
  • Two-way communication for a more intimate connection with the audience

Negative PR

Negative PR does not build on anything new, but rather deals with the response to any negative connotations surrounding a brand’s reputation. In that sense, practices in this area are ex post facto (after the fact) actions that will mitigate any damage that might occur from a previous event involving the company.

Examples of negative PR handling activities

PR protects the brand against negative publicity. For example, if an organization's product malfunctions or in any way causes harm to its consumers, the PR team will deal with a backlash and potential threat to the existence of that product, and company. In these cases, emergency response methods must be used to ensure that the company is not associated with profit-making but rather puts the consumer or relevant audience first and foremost.

Examples of Negative PR handling, or damage control, are:

  • Reactive Crisis Communication (responding to the audience and reassuring them of the organization's priorities in this context
  • Releasing messages as a response or apology, addressing the current crisis in question

Differences and similarities: PR vs other departments

Public relations is often confused with marketing, advertising and communications. People use these terms interchangeably. But they are different. You can learn more about the difference between PR and other departments here. PR is a subdivision of marketing focusing on relationship building with the public to create a positive image for a company or individual.

1

Public Relations vs. Marketing

Marketing is focused on promoting and selling a specific product, whereas PR is focused on maintaining a strong reputation as a whole.

Marketing on the other hand focuses on raising awareness to stimulate the purchases of products and services by using consumer-driven techniques like product placement, advertising, pricing and promotions. The fundamental difference is that while PR focuses on increasing a brand’s presence and creating a long-lasting positive image for that brand, whilst marketing focuses on increasing revenue and boosting the promotion and sale of specific products and services.

2

Public Relations vs. Advertising

Advertising, which is the function of marketing, is a technique of drawing public attention to products or services, mainly through paid announcements.

Public Relations on the other hand doesn’t pay for placements. PR is a strategic communication process that aims at building a mutually beneficial relationship between the company and the public.

To take a further look at the definition of PR, we can identify 4 main categories where PR and other forms of marketing differ from one another.

  • Daily tasks: a day in the life of a PR specialist might include tasks such as writing press releases, contacting and reaching out to media outlets, pitching story ideas and crisis management. In contrast, a marketer might work on creating advertising campaigns for a product or service, reviewing customer research and implementing paid promotions of goods and services in a day.
  • Areas of focus: the focus of a PR expert is to establish relationships that add value to the brand, create partnerships with mutual benefit, and manage the image of the company. Marketers focus on meeting the needs of the customer, acquiring more customers, and promoting the operational qualities of the product or service.
  • Target audience: PR aims to reach customers as well as employees, investors, journalists, media outlets, and other stakeholders. Marketings primarily attempt to reach consumers
  • Performance metrics: a PR campaign’s success depends on its potential reach, share of voice, social engagement, the quality of the coverage, the domain authority of its online presence and traffic earned from media outlets. Marketers mainly focus on sales, traffic, leads, cost-per-click and return on investment.

What is the approach of PR for us PRLab?

As we like to say at PRLab, we do things differently. We create news when there is no news. We think that the standard PR approach is dated and relies on being reactive instead of proactive. We want to change this.

Modern PR is all about being agile - creating dynamic brand stories that have meaningful impact when shared with the press. To give an example, broadcasting press releases is a traditional PR method to boost brand awareness - which works well, under the right conditions. However, these days, press releases run the risk of being forgotten on an unread part of the internet, which adds no value to brand awareness and recognition.

At PRLab, one of the many tactics we employ to make a brand memorable is to focus on establishing thought leadership. This way, we’re able to be more focused and deliberate with how we do PR in a way that adds measurable value to our clients.

Conclusion

Public relations is an industry with greater potential than one might think. Its impact reflects how the public perceives companies, brands, and people in a given sphere. It affects whether a brand is seen as just a mere corporation set to make money, or if it has values, ideas and beliefs attached to it, as well as priorities that differ from just financial gains.

PR specialists work to make sure that a brand’s reputation is maintained and a positive image is created for the public to engage with.

Their activities constantly spread brand awareness, initiate campaigns, tell stories of their achievements and ideas, and tackle negative content that can stain the firm. Whereas marketers aim to increase sales and spread awareness about products and services through paid methods.

March 22, 2022
Back to top
Logo of PRLab, an international tech PR firm
We've helped +100 clients achieve their business goals with the power of Strategic PR across key markets. All our PR strategies are custom-made to fit your needs and meet you at the stage of growth you're at. Tell us about yourself and how we can help you.
Grow your brand
Amsterdam
Herengracht 252, 1016 BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands
+31 202 443 748
Austin
10900 Research Blvd Ste 160C, Austin, TX 78759, USA
+1 (831) 603-5485
Stockholm
Torsgatan 2, 111 75 Stockholm, Sweden
+46 8 446 830 00
Munich
Franz-Joseph-Str. 11, 80801 Munich, Bavaria, Germany
+49 800 0001393
Logo of PRLab, a global technology PR firm
Mon - Fri:  09:00 - 17:00
Contact us
PRLab | PR Agency - PR Firm
Photo of Matias Rodsevich, international PR expert
PR for growth
We help you grow with PR. Find out how.
crosschevron-right-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram