To be completely honest, my pre-PR thoughts were/are that public relations were solely based on handling media and the method of communication between businesses and clients. Being a communication studies major with an emphasis in advertising and public relations, coming into college my thoughts were that that would be exactly what I would be doing; preparing big companies or franchises to address questions or comments or concerns, conveying the meaning behind the message the employer wants to give off to its clients, among other things. Am I positive that that is what public relations consist of? Not exactly. However, that’s what classes are for, right?
After scanning through some of what the GVSU Library has to offer, I came across an article I believe not only speaks what I personally believed (but with just a little more flare to it) but what I have seen through countless hours of watching SportsCenter, since the sports media industry handles some of the more interesting attention in my opinion. Former executive vice president of public relations for communications giant AT&T, Dick Martin, writes that in the eyes of many CEO’s, public relations are all a matter of “message management”, whether it be covering controversy or portraying the brighter side of the company (Martin, 2013, p. 70). Martin goes on to cover New York Times reporter David Carr’s point of view that public relations, in the eyes of a CEO, are to do “whatever it takes to make reading the morning paper an indigestion-free exercise.” In all essence, if the company or client is under fire or looking like pig slop, it’s the job of a PR person to either do everything in his or her power to clean that up, or be responsible for why the company is in such mess in the eyes of the media. Unless, per chance, I completely misinterpreted this article.
However, on a possibly lighter hand, the PRSA, or Public Relations Society of America, released what they decided was a formal definition for public relations. The definition reads as follows: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (Staff, 2012). This I could also agree with, as the face of most Fortune 500 companies and others are mostly well represented. The key word being ‘beneficial’, a good PR specialist can and will create not only level ground between business and the public, but find and create opportunities for both of which to advance as well.
One thing I came across that I did not particularly think about was the difference between an advertising agency and a public relations agency, or the simple difference between advertising and PR. An article on Forbes states that “PR agencies, as opposed to advertising agencies, promote companies or individuals via editorial coverage” (Wynne, 2013). Maybe something that just had not crossed my mind was that advertising companies use “paid media” or advertisements, where as PR agencies promote theirs through what Wynne defines as “free media”, such as “stories appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and TV programs.” The final part that I believe Wynne says well is that “articles or TV appearances in respected publications have the advantage of third-party validation and are generally viewed more favorably.” When an individual or organization is, for lack of a better phrase, thrown into a famous magazine or newspaper, the public seems to be more attracted and supportive if the story or article is positive, and vice versa.
Public relations consist of a much broader spectrum than I had anticipated. I can’t say I was definitively wrong with my pre-PR thoughts, but I also agree that I underestimated the grand views, both positive and negative, that surround public relations. After a bit more research, I am much more comfortable with my knowledge about PR.
Martin, D. (Spring 2013). What’s Public Relations Really About?, 70-71. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b5aa505d-f6dd-4795-97b8-1f84b6fdf59d%40sessionmgr111&vid=1&hid=127
Staff, PRSA (April 11, 2012). Public Relations Defined: A Modern Definition for the New Era of Public Relations. Retrieved from http://prdefinition.prsa.org/index.php/2012/04/11/the-modern-definition-of-public-relations/
Wynne, R. (April 10, 2013). What Does A Public Relations Agency Do?. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwynne/2013/04/10/what-does-a-public-relations-agency-do/