Person: So what school do you go to?
Me: I actually graduated a few years ago.
Person: Oh really? In what?
Me: PR-Public Relations.
Person: Oh! So what are you doing now?
Me: I actually got a new job last fall.
Person: Doing what?
Person: Yes, but what do you actually do?
I've come to realize most people don't know what public relations is and people I talk to (including my own parents) don't really know what I do. If you are one of these people, don't worry, you're not alone. I figured since people are asking me about it fairly often, I might as well try to explain.
I had a professor once tell me PR is like trying to find ways to advertise for free. Though the statement doesn't cover all areas of PR, I thought that was a really clever way to describe it. Public relations and publicity are not the same, although publicity is one function PR people usually perform. A lot of people hear "PR" and think of celebrities' publicists. Publicity is defined as the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization. The American Heritage Dictionary defines PR as "the art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public." This is usually accomplished by promoting favorable news for your company. Here are some of the ways to do this:
-Write press releases to send to media contacts when something noteworthy happens at your company-- the goal is to provide information and generate coverage for the company.
-Pitch story ideas involving your company to media outlets. For example, I knew about a story a magazine was going to include in a future issue about office workspaces and interiors. Since the company I work for puts a lot of time and effort into its interior, I called up the reporter in charge of writing the story and pitched ideas on how the company could be included in the article. Obviously you have to know what is a good fit because reporters do not like you wasting their time.
-Submit/nominate your company for awards
-Write bylined articles for publications
-Secure speaking opportunities for executives from your company for conferences, etc.
In case you're just dying to learn more, here are some other typical PR duties:
-Tracking the media coverage your company is receiving
-Creating case studies and other collateral materials
-Crisis communications: basically trying to minimize damage in the event of a disaster or getting the truth out in cases of misinformation
-Creating press kits (basically a kit of helpful information about the company to give to reporters, etc.)
-Creating content for the company newsletter and Web site
The list could go on and on with all sorts of odds and ends, but I think I hit most of the main duties. I do have to say I love PR and I love my job so I consider myself very lucky. Class is dismissed!