Defining Public Relations

Essay by yunk44College, Undergraduate August 2009

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When people think of public relations or PR most often a person will think of a business that is in hot water; then they will visualize some company representative standing in front of a microphone trying to rectify the mess that is happening at the time. The thing that many people do not realize is that there is more to PR than this type of situation. Public relations has an impact on a business and should be specifically defined so that the business can gain from the position/department. However, defining PR can be tricky since it generates different types of definitions between people, businesses and industries and tends to have a narrow scope as described above. Beyond defining PR an understanding of just how important it is to a business must be expressed.

From a layman’s perception I would define PR as the do-good clean-up guy. Public relations simply put could be the person or department that is responsible for handling the negative press or image a business might encounter; at least that was my take on the subject prior to this paper and having researched the topic more it was found that although the statement is true it is only half-true.

There is more to PR than this and once researched and understood it is a very interesting aspect of a business.

It is said that “public relations serves a wide variety of institutions in society such as businesses, trade unions, government agencies, voluntary associations, foundations, hospitals, schools, colleges and religious institutions. To achieve their goals, these institutions must develop effective relationships with many different audiences or publics such as employees, members, customers, local communities, shareholders, and other institutions, and with society at large” (PRSA, 1982). This definition from the PRSA contradicts my initial definition of PR. According to the PRSA, public relations seeks to define a company with promotion of positive aspects of a company and coming together with the community surrounding the business in a cohesive way. The PRSA statement goes on to say that the managements of institutions need to understand the attitudes and values of their publics in order to achieve institutional goals. The goals themselves are shaped by the external environment. The public relations practitioner acts as a counselor to management and as a mediator, helping to translate private aims into reasonable, publicly acceptable policy and action (PRSA, 1982). This is interesting considering that much of the research reviewed for this paper said the same thing but in a different way.

It is as though public relations is a way for a business to manipulate a public to gain “private aims into reasonable, publicly acceptable policy and action” (PRSA, 1982). It was found that public relations is also defined as “a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication” (Seitel, 2007). So this might suggest that public relations is formed with high intentions; intentions that are not manipulative but honest and helpful; helpful to the business and to the public. This is further substantiated in the article “What is Public Relations”; PR is defined as the art and science of establishing relationships between an organization and its key audiences. The article goes on to say that public relations play a key role in helping business industries create strong relationships with customers.

In a nut shell public relations is a key ingredient to any business. It is not a small issue that businesses should ignore or retract attention from. Regardless of how a business handles public relations it must be dealt with so that the important information about the company gets to the public. According to the text ‘The Practice of Public Relations’ public relations in 1974 by the Foundation for Public Relations Research and Education after analyzing 472 different definitions was defined in an 88-word sentence as:Public relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish andmaintain mutual lines of communications, understanding, acceptance, and cooperationbetween an organization and its publics; involves the management of problemsor issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to publicopinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the publicinterest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, servingas an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research andsound and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools.10Knowing that it took sixty-five public relations leaders to narrow that many different definitions down to those 88-words signifies just how much PR relates to a business. Every business regardless of how the role is defined must realize the important relationship it has with success.

ReferencesPRSA (1982). Official Statement on Public Relations retrieved from /aboutUs/officialStatement.html on July 20, 2009Seitel, F. (2007). The Practice of Public Relations, 10th Ed.

Crystal, G (2009). The Wise Geek: What is Public Relations? Retrieved from on July 20, 2009