What is PR?


PR tends to mean different things to different people. Ask 10 executives what they understand by 'HR' or 'Finance' and you'll get 10 broadly similar explanations. But ask them about public relations and the chances are that you'll get 10 very different responses.


So what is public relations and why should you be interested? Well, Bill Gates is said to have remarked that if he was down to his last $100 he would spend it on PR. The fact is that PR is the most cost-effective tool there is for building brands, protecting and enhancing reputation, and growing customer loyalty and market share.


In essence, PR is about three things: raising profile, changing perceptions and managing reputation. It deals with what you do as an organisation or brand, what you say and what others say about you. It usually involves winning endorsements from third-parties (typically the media) for a product, brand, service, organisation or individual. It can be - and often is - concerned with minimising damage to reputation.


One official definition of PR - from the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations - is 'the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics'. Ford Motor Company has defined it as 'an understanding of what the media really wants, plus a dash of flair'. This is important - what the good PR practitioner brings to the party is imagination and an understanding of what makes the media tick... i.e. what will work in PR terms and what will not.


Public relations is about presenting yourself, your organisation and your products or services in an appropriate light to your various publics - suppliers, the media, staff, business partners, shareholders, other stakeholders and opinion-formers - but most of all your customers and prospective customers, plus those in a position to influence them.


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