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What is PR?

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been in public relations as a student or a professional for almost 20 years, but I still struggle with the simple question, ‘what do you do for a living?’ Let’s face it PR has a bit of a…well, PR problem. Some think of PR as ‘spinsters’ some think of personal ‘handlers’ and the number one answer – ‘oh, you’re in advertising.’

Truth be told, I’m part of the problem because when I meet new people at a social gathering, I usually don’t care enough to educate these people about what I do. My answer is all too often, yeah, advertising exactly – now let’s talk about something less controversial like politics and religion. This approach is of course part of the reason I don’t get invited to too many social events, but that is a discussion for another day.

I was wondering why it is so difficult for people to grasp what PR people do for a living, so I decided to look at the world of PR from an outsiders point of view.

A quick news search for ‘public relations’ reveals articles about how NBC’s PR team mishandled the Jay Leno show moving time slots. The entire point was how badly the situation was communicated and how ill-informed the entire organization seemed to be.
Ok, so public relations is about communications. Got it. Simple.

Another search turned up – Tila Tequila Continues Her PR Blitz Following Casey Johnson’s Death. The entire point being someone that is famous for being famous wants to use bad news to become more famous.
Oh, okay, so public relations is about promotion and publicity. Got it. Simple.

More big news in the PR world was the announcement of Sarah Palin’s daughter launching public relations firm. Um, so it is so easy that a 19 year-old with no college degree can start her own agency.
PR is simple. Got it.

Chris Brogan’s How to Pitch Bloggers post was all the buzz in PR circles, so looking at it as an outsider I read the blog post, the hundreds of tweets and blog comments and realized that clearly no one in PR has ever pitched a blogger before.
So PR is about mass media relations? I think I got it.

Careercast’s listing of the top 200 jobs for 2010 ranked public relations executive at number 79 and defined the job as someone who ‘helps governmental bodies, businesses and individuals maintain a positive image with the public.’
Government and positive image in the same sentence can only mean propaganda or spin. PR is about spin. Right?

It was good to know that (according to Careercast) PR is a better job than piano tuner, teacher, commercial airline pilot, surgeon, bartender, attorney and police and correction officers. While none of those careers were on my short list a few of those seem like good jobs, but what do I know I’m just a PR hack – whatever that is.

If you are interested in a real job description of PR check out Jules Zuzich’s – You too can be a PR consultant! All you need is a Twitter account – blog post.

  1. Jules Zunich Z Group PR
    January 15, 2010 at 4:18 am

    PR better than a piano teaching? That I did not know!

    I wish more PR people spent time communicating outside the field as to what we do (i.e. the benefits, goals, and realities of PR) so that there was less confusion. My sister, who has a master’s degree, is still confused about what I do.

    Until then, it’s you and me keeping it real, Tony! Oh and thanks for the free PR!

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