Why PR’s definition means nothing

What public relations is doesn’t matter nearly as much as how and where you practice it.


It doesn’t matter how you tell your story or how you get your product, company, or service in front of the people who will benefit from it.

However, what you call it—well, that is confusing. Is it public relations? Social media? Digital communications? Marketing communications? Let’s look at the first two.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, public relations (or PR) is a field concerned with maintaining public image for high-profile people, commercial businesses and organizations, and nonprofit associations or programs.

Is this what it is? Sounds a bit too corporate for the work we do here and what other agencies are doing for their clients. I guess this would fit into philanthropic endeavors or some sort of lobbying work, if you take it by their definition.

If you look at how they define social media you get this: Social media includes Web- and mobile-based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue among organizations, communities, and individuals.

We’re getting there. At the very least, in this definition of one of the many responsibilities of marketing today, it tells of the dialogue portion and the creation and exchange of user-generated content.

OK, now we could be on to something. But where is the public image or brand management or even competitive intelligence piece that marketing and public relations teams are responsible for today?

This morning I read a very good piece on FastCompany.com that looks at B2B public relations as a hybrid of social media and traditional media. On the surface this is a no-brainer. As marketers, we all know that in order to be successful and garner the best possible coverage/outcome for our clients or company, a blended approach to social media and media relations is needed. How you do this is important, but where you do it separates the good from the great.

As a marketing communications partner to our clients, we identify, create, and place content that is both informative and engaging with the people that matter to our clients’ business.

Be it through an infographic creation, byline or white paper development, analyst or media relations, community management, competitive intelligence, social media, or content marketing creation-ultimately, it’s all about communication.

We strive to make sure that when we do any/all of this, it will leave a mark. Or maybe it creates and maintains a public image for them. I guess that brings us back to our original discussion: What do you call it—and does it really matter?

Jason Ouellette is a vice president at PAN Communications.

Topics: PR

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