What is PR, Anyway?

What is PR, Anyway?

Weslie Oeftering
Weslie Oeftering
What is PR, Anyway?

As a PR student, whenever I see my family, they inevitably always ask me: “So, what is PR, anyway?”

It’s a great question because not everybody knows what PR stands for, let alone what is involved in practicing the profession. So, if you happen to be like me and facing all the questions about what PR is, I present to you this blog post.

What PR really boils down to is influencing and engaging an organization’s primary stakeholders to obtain a favorable outcome without having to pay for the result.

Now if that isn’t overly broad and vague then I don’t know what is. Let me help by getting more specific. PR is made up of a variety of disciplines, which includes, but is not limited to:

  • Financial PR (aka, investor relations): communicates financial results to the public, often for publicly-traded companies;
  • Social media: uses platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote the products and/or activities of an organization;
  • Media relations: works with journalists and other media outlets to inform the public of news about an organization;

  • Internal communications (aka, employee relations): assists an organization with communicating information to its members;
  • Crisis communications: helps organizations keep crises (which comes in many forms) from spiraling out of control;
  • Reputation management: after a crisis, reputation management helps improve any negative attitudes toward your brand;
  • Branding: creates a company’s voice or personality in the marketplace;
  • Sales support: drives profits through by increasing demand for a company’s products and/or providing sales leads.

What’s A Stakeholder?

Now stakeholders come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t necessarily have to have an actual financial stake in the organization, as in employees or investors. Stakeholders are virtually any audience that has an interest in following the fate of a given organization. For instance, clients of a company represent a stakeholder group. So do social media followers. Even the government in a regulated industry represents a stakeholder group. Think of it this way: if the company interacts with them on a semi-regular basis (either online or face-to-face) then they’re probably a stakeholder. Identifying exactly who these stakeholders are is just the tip of the PR iceberg.

Another important part of what public relations does is building relationships that facilitate communication between organizations and their stakeholders. Figuring out how to build (or even repair) this rapport is the problem-solving, creative side of PR and can be done in many ways. It all depends on what a particular organization wants to be accomplished.

From brand reputation to thought leadership, PR attempts to position an organization in a favorable light by using a different mix of communication tools, with the ultimate aim of facilitating a positive conversation between an organization and the public.

Brand activations, press conferences, partnering with lawmakers about certain issues — and, you know, blogging — are just a few of the things that PR professionals do in their day-to-day.

The Importance of Social Media

Social media has increasingly become one of the most (if not the most) important public relations tools. Think about it: the whole world, right at your fingertips! One viral video, tweet or celebrity endorsement can change the trajectory of a company literally overnight – for better or for worse. For example, Eggo’s partnership with Netflix to promote Season 2 of Stranger Things opened up their waffles to an audience beyond just little kids and their parents. On the other hand, Cinnabon’s “tribute” to Carrie Fisher sparked outrage.

When used correctly social media is an incredibly effective way to garner the consumer attention that so many brands need to survive and grow.

Essentially, PR professionals are their client’s life coach. We find out what works for them and what doesn’t, and guide them through the process of solidifying our findings into their organization. At other times, we can be advisors or counselors. Whether that’s through a new marketing strategy, a press release or planning events — PR pros do it all.

A PR professional helps a company become better at communicating. We market a company’s products and pitch to the media in an effort to strengthen existing ties with their current stakeholders (and forge relationships with new ones) so that they can focus on improving their products or services. 

So, whenever inquiring minds ask you what is PR, be sure to send them over this way. You’ll spend less time convincing your parents that all the tuition money they’re paying is going to a real profession. 


About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft provides PR and marketing services with a global reach for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of their services include content marketing, social media strategy, as well as ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

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