When I reflected on what public relations meant to myself, I came up with the definition that “public relations is the ways through which a business, company, or corporation communicates with the public to relay their message or purpose through several different forms of media.” While this is not incorrect it only encompasses part of what public relations is and does.
Many times when discussing public relations, it appeared that I would combine the tasks of public relations with advertising and marketing. While they are related and work together, they are not the same thing. One reason why these can become so interchangeable is because they do have things in common. Robert Wynne highlighted this perfectly in the article, “What Does a Public Relations Agency Do?” Wynne wrote, “PR agencies and advertising agencies share the same goals: promoting clients and making them seem as successful, honest, important, exciting, or relevant as possible.” Personally, I view this as one of the main reasons why it is so hard to distinguish between the different fields because they have very similar goals in mind. The key to distinguishing between the different agencies, is that they go about achieving their goals in different ways.
Another idea I had about public relations was that their goal was to help a company keep or build a good reputation with the public. Essentially this was just a twist of the title of the field. However, in the simplest form this is what public relations does. The end goal is for a public relations agency “to protect, enhance, or build their reputations through the media” (Wynne, 2013). When explaining public relations to someone who doesn’t understand it, this has been the best way to get the overall message across from my experience. This field is all about finding ways to make the company more accessible, relevant, and relatable for the public. Which is why I think it’s really important to be able to define what public relations is in both broad terms and in very simplistic terms.
I’ve noticed that some people view public relation agencies as people who spin the truth or lie to the public. Obviously an agency has a client and goal in mind, so they don’t want to put negative press out about their client. However, they aren’t being paid to lie about they client. Their job is to highlight and show the public the positive things that the client can offer. They are also there to handle damage control when things go wrong. Ultimately, they want to be viewed as a reliable and trustworthy source. A good public relations agency would not lie on behalf of the client. To reflect about why lying or spinning the truth doesn’t happen, “A good PR professional knows that this will ultimately undermine credibility not only with your publics, but also the media, who, in this position, should be one of your best friends (Hendricks, 2015).” If a company constantly publishes false or exaggerated stories about their product and then tries to publish something true, no one will believe them because of their reputation. Reputation is everything in the industry, it is most beneficial to build trust and reliability.
While it is unacceptable for a public relations agency to lie to the public, they do try to keep things out of the eye of the public. Part of the job of an agency is to keep some things silent and invisible. They do not want bad press to spread everywhere about the company they work for or represent. Therefor silence can be a key factor in the job, “What is said does not tacitly imply – it explicitly denies a meaning. It is indirect silence as well; one says what cannot be said (Dimitrov, 2015).” It’s really important to note that silence is necessary to try to keep a positive reputation with the public. While some may view silence as being deceptive, it’s just another way to interpret a situation.
My pre-conceptions of public relations in no way span the entirety of what public relations actually is. I can’t wait to learn and discover all that public relations is, does, and can offer to me. Throughout this course my knowledge and understanding of public relations will only continue to expand. This field is essential to any company, corporation, or person who is trying to maintain, develop, or improve their reputation within the company and with the public.