The formal practice of what is now commonly referred to as “public relations” dates to the early 20th century. Since that time, public relations has been defined in myriad ways, the definition often evolving alongside public relations’ changing roles and advances in technology.
The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of “engagement” and “relationship building.” In 1982, PRSA adopted the following definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”A more modern definition of public relations was drafted several decades later, a definition that still stands today:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”PRSA
At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across numerous platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization. Public relations also encompasses the following:
- Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might have an impact, for good or ill, on the operations and plans of the organization.
- Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communications — including crisis communications — taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
- Protecting the reputation of an organization.
- Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communications to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fundraising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
- Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy.
- Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.
- Overseeing the creation of content to drive customer engagement and generate leads.
Below are some of the disciplines/functions within PR:
- Corporate Communications
- Crisis Communications
- Executive Communications
- Internal Communications
- Investor Relations Communications
- Marketing Communications
- Integrated Marketing/Integrated Marketing Communications
- Media Relations
- Content Creation
- Social Media
- Reputation Management
- Brand Journalism