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Public Relations Definition and Results

Public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity.

Before you can properly pitch your public relations services, you must make sure your prospect knows what you do. The common definition of public relations has absolutely nothing to do with what the practice is all about. In general, public relations in the everyday parlance of the English language means a slightly dishonest manipulation of public opinion for somewhat dubious ends.

In reality, public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity. Thus, any form of publicity that does not involve a direct payment, that is advertising, is public relations. In common practice, public relations involves the generation of news articles by pitching reporters or editors of a publication. In the Internet age, public relations has expanded to include other forms of unpaid publicity such as blogs, e-newsletters and the distribution of online press releases.

Most experts suggest that the ideal marketing budget for any company should include about 50 percent advertising and 50 percent public relations. In my opinion, public relations is even more important. For example, what are you more likely to read, a large display ad or a small interesting news article on the same page?

Once you overcome the resistance to public relations, you are faced with another conundrum. The impact of public relations is notoriously hard to measure. While advertising can be measured by the response rate, the impact of a public relations campaign can be much more amorphous. Public relations involves reputation management, and its effects general involve a more long-term impact based on publicity over many months. But clients typically become restless, and many expect immediate results.

This difficulty can be easily solved in the sphere of online public relations. In my post next week, I will discuss the best way to measure the impact of public relations online through Google Analytics, which can be used to quantify both search engine optimization and client engagement.

The General Impression of “Public Relations”

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Working in the field of public relations is sometimes frustrating due to a lack of understanding among the general population. The term “public relations” and “PR” is interpreted in the general society in a very vague and amorphous manner. So when I tell people I run a public relations agency, their faces cloud over and sometimes they even ask exactly what I do.

The term has taken on a relatively negative meaning in the general public, and public relations is viewed as some kind of attempt to deceive people or put out some form of propaganda. In the parlance of Donald Trump, “Wrong!”

In the corporate and B2B world, the marketing department encompasses both advertising and public relations, and most experts suggest you should pay about the same amount of attention to each.

Public relations simply means unpaid publicity, as opposed to advertising which is paid publicity. PR professionals work to generate positive news stories about their clients by drafting press releases, placing bylined articles in trade publications and business journals and more.

The publicity vehicles created by the online revolution transformed public relations. Because if we remember the core definition of PR, unpaid publicity, well, you do not have to pay any money to publish your blog or send out your email newsletter, for example. Google Adwords, on the other hand, or online banners cost money, and they properly belong in the field of advertising.

Public relations is estimated to be about 10 times more effective than advertising per column inch. Ask yourself what you pay more attention to, a large advertisement or a small interesting news story on the same page.

In the corporate and B2B world, the marketing department encompasses both advertising and public relations, and most experts suggest  you should pay about the same amount of attention to each. In reality, most CEOs lean far more heavily on advertising, and they need to be educated about both the definition and the power of public relations.

Public relations professionals need to sound a clarion call against the general impression of their field.

Public Relations: Marketing Mix

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Most experts suggest you use both public relations and advertising in your marketing mix, but far too many executives neglect the former or lack even a basic awareness about the difference between the two.

Moreover, the explosion of online promotion, social media and relatively new formats such as blogs have boosted public relations far above advertising.

Advertising refers to paid promotion while public relations refers to unpaid promotion. Public relations is estimated to be up to ten times more effective per column inch — think about the following contrast: what does your eye turn to when reading a newspaper, a large display ad or a small interesting article on the same page.

Public relations is effective because there is a neutral “gatekeeper,” the editors and reporters who decide whether your article is newsworthy.

Moreover, the explosion of online promotion, social media and relatively new formats such as blogs have boosted public relations far above advertising. Advertising online is generally regarded as spam and quickly deleted. However, unpaid promotion online includes many different vehicles such as e-newsletters, blogs, online publications, etc. These formats are free — unlike banner ads, Adwords, etc. — and so they properly fit into the category of online PR.

The public relations industry is still adjusting to this rapid broadening of its horizons. The field of “push” PR, sending out press releases, brochures, etc., is slowly giving way to “pull” PR or inbound marketing. Strategies such as search engine optimization let interested parties find you instead of the other way around.

Defining Public Relations

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Public relations is one of the few professions struggling to define itself in the public’s eye. The term, public relations, or PR, is used differently among the general population than its professional meaning.

Public relations as a field has nothing to do with the casual use of the term, often applied in a somewhat derogatory context …

Public relations as a field has nothing to do with the casual use of the term, often applied in a somewhat derogatory context to mean image or fluff or lacking substance. The proper use of the term is defined simply as “unpaid publicity.” Thus, public relations is best contrasted with advertising, its polar opposite, defined as “paid publicity.”

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