What is PR?

PR is not just a Press Release

What is PR and how does it work?

It was a Wednesday afternoon and we were having lunch at our usual spot at the lunch room. And you know those round table talks. They are just like strolling through a lifestyle magazine, the many disruptive talks will be based on anything that would seem interesting at that moment – from sports this minute, food the next and politics the other, and there are these random situations that we end up having a valuable intellectual chat. It’s like one of those blue moon situations; but one thing was clear if it did happen – that was that it was totally worth it.

On this particular day, we unconsciously stumbled upon talks of how challenging work is, with the pandemic in place and having to align to rosters, tight schedules and flexible work patterns. We put down our job roles to see how we each play a multitude of roles, no matter our work prospect. We came up with effective strategies to make each person’s work easier. Now it was my turn to express my role and see how best everyone can support my scope of work – I was the Public Relations and Communications guy.  My friend was talking about what my work is, and it’s kind of boiled down to Press Releases to them. He went on to say, so you have to find something worthy of pushing to the media, write a ‘PR’, translate it, and you are supposed to send out them to journalists as English, Sinhala and Tamil Press Releases, right? I stayed silent for a few seconds and smiled.

What exactly is a Press Release?

‘A press release is an official statement delivered to members of the news media for the purpose of providing information, an official statement, or making an announcement. A press release is traditionally composed of nine structural elements, including a headline, introduction, body, and other information.’

This perception of ‘PR’ was not uncommon, it was literally the event in most cases. Press Release is usually what comes to mind when one talks about PR – well, yeah it is ‘an abbreviation’ but what PR really stands for is much broader than releases, texts and pitches.

In certain cases, Visas and permanent residency at other states is what comes to mind when they hear the word ‘PR’ too

Public Relations?

I felt that the Public Relations industry as a whole has to work on ‘Public Relations’. To put it to perspective; we find not many people explaining what public relations specialists/ practitioners/ consultants do – If you are a teacher or a painter or a physician, everybody knows your Job function. But this is not true in the case of a PR professional. Be it at a family get together, batch reunion or a party – you will have to have an elevator pitch ready to not only introduce yourself, but also to answer their recurring question of what PR is about. Trust me – you have to!

There might be a few who know what PR might stand for – but they usually stick to the abbreviation I spoke earlier on – Press Releases over Public Relations. Some others see PR practitioners as writers, while some others wonder how a soft skill that they put on their resume is a job title of a person. But the specific skill that shows up on resumes and CVs is a better fetched understanding of what PR is, especially when considering the prior.

The Public Relations society of America shares the thought of ‘’Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics”

PR can be used to protect, enhance, nurture and build reputation through different forms of media. PR professionals are translators – they can analyze the organization, its processes, products, people, events or anything at all and translate it to newsworthy stories. They are magicians who can transform bad news to mitigate the damage by constructing the best response through careful analysis of everything around. They use everything from print, social, digital media to events to share the story.

PR professionals are always aware of what is happening around in the country. They use their intellect to create an intel on communications and formulate strategies to identify what has to be communicated, why it has to be shared across, who are the stakeholders involved; from the company to the general public, where and how it will be shared is where media relations and networks are used.

For any person and business alike – their reputation is quite crucial. It is who they are. It’s the public perception.  Marketing campaigns focused on advertising and persuasive sales materials might help close the sales, but it can assure that the customer will come back – this is where PR comes in to play. It helps the brands position themselves in the minds of customers. It is done through several strategic approaches. PR helps companies connect and build strong relationships with their publics.

There is also a common misconception that Advertising and PR are mutual, when in reality it is not. It’s actually Paid vs Unpaid, Purchased vs Earned, Skeptical vs Credible. There is an old saying that would pretty much suit this situation –  “Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for!”

Bill Gates had once said “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public Relations”

The manifold approaches of Public Relations

Public Relations is a whole bunch of things –  it is Corporate Communications. It helps to establish and maintain a good corporate / personal image in the public eye using several channels – these channels can relay important information about you, your company, its events, updates, products, announcements, etc. It can also be used as a means to start a conversation between your company and the public. Everything from your caller ID to your Facebook post and booklet can come into play. It is about content connectivity. Content is thought to be owned by the marketing department as whole, content is the core of modern marketing attracting inbound strategy and awareness while drawing traffic from important audiences. But content connectivity with the word connectivity’ is where PR governs.

It would not reach the associated channels, be it through print, digital or social media without the PR effect. PR can also help amplify messaged and make the messages meaningful. PR is about Reputation Management – This too is within the realms of PR. It is where the brand is shown in certain light as we want it to be in response to any attempted or un-attempted damage, perception or viewpoints of the public. Thought Leadership is also PR. This helps portray the company as an expert at the topic, thereby building trust and reputation. It will be insightful and yet cover audiences much more than any advertising would do. Audience Engagement is quite crucial in PR – it’s the way we engage with consumers through product, social media, events and any form that builds a two-way connection with the company and the public. Successful publicists build effective campaigns that will be interactive and organically shared.

PR has evolved over the years and gets new channels of delivery everyday. The types of activities in a PR campaign usually include a mix of Storytelling, Press releases & bylines, Media relations, Analyst relations, Employee relations, Internal and external communications, Program Production, Crisis communications, Thought leadership, Event management, Social media strategy, Investor relations, Video & Audio production, Public perception analysis, Content creation and programming, Consultation for the C- suite, Media training, Influencer relations, Design, TV / Radio / Print, De-positioning competitors, Halo effect on your brand

It’s ‘all of them’ and many more.

It is quite clear that PR is about Value creation and collaboration, revolutionary thinking and intellectual curiosity, perception management and crisis communication. While press releases is just a tool in public relations.

Up until now, I’ve had the opportunity of working with several brands and individuals across several industries here in Sri Lanka and around the World. I have worked in-house for corporates and at agencies/ consultancies too. I am thankful to Ashan Kumar who gave me a new #perspective on PR. This was one of the features about him.

Other Resources

My initial understanding of PR was from LinkedIn Learning – I would highly recommend it. You can also sign up to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for their qualifications as well. You can check out the blog from Hubspot and from Forbes for more information and understanding. You can also contact me and I would be more than happy and would love to be of help. In the mean time, there are a lot you can learn while doing the job – if you are interested; do apply – learn and grow ?

#PR #Communications #PublicRelations #Ammar_Ahamed

2 thoughts on “What is PR?

  1. Zeynab Rishad says:

    Till last year I never knew what PR is although I was much more interested in Journalism and communications and this article helped alot to get to know more about what I was aware a little. It’s really helpful to the people like me who doesn’t have a prior knowledge about PR


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