The”P” in PR

Jon and I always joked about how if we get married, my name will be changed to Priscilla Roberts (his surname), so my initials will be “PR”! Perfect for me, since I am in public relations. (if you don’t get the joke, forget it).

Anyway, that silly joke came to mind as I was reading one of Jeremy Pepper’s old blog posts on “what does the P in PR stands for?” (I’ve been spending some time going through Jeremy’s blog posts and they are really quite brilliant.). PR can mean many things to many different people.
Jeremy wrote,

…. PR used to stand for public relations. Not press relations, but public relations…

I totally agree. It has been argued about, debated on and the conclusion is that PR needs to focus and put the real “P” (for public) back to the highly misunderstood industry of public relations, (especially in this new Web 2.0 and social media age).

There are alot of definitions of PR, by academics and experts in the industry. Generally, the idea of PR lies in the following:-

Public relations is the management of relationships between an organization and its publics – groups on whom it depends for its success. An organization’s publics may include employees, shareholders, government regulators, customers, financial analysts, pressure groups, and industry associations. Depending on the field in which it operates, there will be others. A school board will have parents, students and taxpayers. A food producer may have farmers, marketing boards, dieticians and consumer associations. A registered charity will have donors and volunteers…

(source: PRCA)

And of course, the mass media is part of the publics that organisations and PR people aim to reach out to, but did you notice the many other “publics” listed in the above? PR has been evolving and I have realised that the definitions can even vary in different countries but it definitely goes beyond “how to get a coverage in XX publication..”

Melvin Yuan, an independent PR and new media consultant commented in one of my earlier post about how many PR folks are thinking press relations rather than public relations.

….Ask any consultant to list his/her top five tags for PR and you’ll know the level of his thinking.

If “media relations” and “pitching stories” are in that list, you’ll know what’s going to rattle his nerves…

I have several thoughts as I was writing this post. One of them was attempting to define the “P” in PR and as I was researching on what had been discussed, I came across this great article, “Media coverage: forget about the quantity- measure the quality,” by Jennifer McClure, summarising what I had in mind.

PR is not meant to be about creating static messages in a vacuum, and it is not synonymous with media relations, but for too long this seems to have been the assumption – not only by clients and management, but even by many in the PR industry.

Public relations is about forming and nurturing relationships with the public. We all need to remind ourselves of this from time to time. If, instead of spending time creating and communicating static messages and trying to make sure that nothing negative is ever said about our organizations, PR can re-focus its efforts on creating relationships…

I start to fear and cringe, whenever I speak with communications/ PR or marketing people who asked me, “oh, so can you get us some coverage in Her World magazine?” Nothing wrong with Her World magazine (a very popular female mag in Singapore) but in today’s Web2.0 world and the age of social media, PR folks should take the opportunities to work towards achieving not a front-page press coverage but to start a real dialogue with the key audiences (which includes the “publics” mentioned above) to alter perceptions, to create awareness, to gather feedbacks (and the list goes on, depending on what you aim to achieve). Such are statements that many have spoken and written about but, honestly, how many PR people are actually practising them? How many actually GET IT or attempt to GET IT?

Two-way dialogue can occur without a front page or any media coverage. Infact, let’s put it another way, two-way dialogue SHOULD occur ON TOP of the front page coverage – that’s the job of PR now and in the near future. Most decent PR folks know all about traditional media pitching, the challenge is to move on and put PR back to the scope it is meant to cover.

Although I am in PR, I am also a blogger – possibly part of the “publics” that some organisations are targeting. I am also the consumer who buy the various media’s publications and many different brand of products. I am also the unhappy customer who had a bad perception of that hotel with such bad service, I am dying to tell the world not to go to that hotel.

I guess, what I am trying to say here is, at the end of the day, we know that PR is evolving, especially in this exciting time where we see shifts in the industry, the key thing is to start practising it, start to put the real “P” (repeat: Public) back in PR and learn to GET IT! We are sick of hearing everyone telling us, “PR just don’t get it”.

More reference articles on elated topic:-

What is PR? by Heather Yaxley (another updated post – 12 Dec 2007 – here )

PR Measurement: Does media coverage alone impact business outcomes?

What is PR? by Public Relations Institute of Australia


5 thoughts on “The”P” in PR

  1. Thanks for this great justification of publics (and the link to my own thoughts). I’d just like to say that publics should go further than simply identifying stakeholder groups, which is what the PRCA definition tends to list. As such these are largely seen from the perspective of the organisation – but what is really interesting is the concept of publics in relation to an issue or problem. As such, those people can be clearly seen as active rather than passive (even if this is only to the extent of processing or seeking information). Once we recognise that we need to build and maintain relations (the R word) with such publics, then we can truly move beyond thinking just of static media coverage into resolving problems that present threats or opportunities to those with whom we work.

  2. Pingback: Public Relations - it’s all in the name « Heather Yaxley - Greenbanana views of public relations and more

  3. Thanks for the kind words on my writing and blog. I try to add value to the conversations out there, so thanks for noticing.

    The fun stuff of the old posts is that I see my POV had not changed that much!

  4. Very well said! I appreciated your perspective. Too often we (specialists and clients alike) forget that media is one of the vehicles (not the end itself) that can be utilized to frame or re-frame a message for public consumption. Important, yes, but certainly media is not all there is to PR.
    However, while keeping the “public” in public relations alive and as comprehensive as possible, it is important for public relations professionals to view the media as they do other “publics”, especially if they want to be successful. As a journalist, I came into contact with many pr specialists who actually gave their clients a bad name because they were soooooo pushy and demanding.
    I think the bottom line here is that PR is about “good, clear communications” with all of the targeted audiences. And that takes resourcefulness, creativity, and insight.

  5. A great post and one which illustrates a fundamental tenet of PR which tends to get lost. Paying attention to one’s stakeholders and communicating to them on a regular basis is just as important – if not more so – than pitching a big story to the media. Another important role which is oft neglected is that of internal communications. After all, employees of an organisation are the best brand ambassadors that one can find.

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