The Public Image of Public Relations

Being new to Public Relations can be intimidating. I didn’t, nor do I really know what I am getting myself into. I tried to come up with my pre-PR definition and it turned out as “Public relations is a way of creating and maintaining an image for a brand or company, it can be similar to promotion or management depending on your client and their needs. A person working in PR may come up with campaigns to promote a company, and they may also try to maintain a positive image of their client even if something negative is released.” This is the definition from someone with no experience is PR, so I ask, what is PR? How can it be defined?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) seemed like a credible place to begin my research into what PR is, and how it could be defined. PRSA defines it as “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics (PRSA).” This was a definition compiled by crowdsourcing and a public vote that is current to the times. PR seems to be constantly evolving due to technology, as well as the change in society domestically and abroad. Trying to distinguish how it can be defined was difficult to begin with because of how it is separate from business, communication, and marketing.

I associate PR with marketing and advertising, but I didn’t really understand the difference, and I think many Americans don’t know the difference either. Robert Wynne (2016) wrote and article “Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations” for Forbes. He started it off by saying “The public relations industry does a terrible job of public relations (Wynne, 2016).” This seemed to encapsulate the misconception or confusion about PR. He went on to explain how it is brand upkeep and positive communication about a company, product, person, etc. You are not selling an item or person necessarily, you are trying to create and maintain an image.  Advertising is paid, PR is earned, you have to convince the media or company that this is a good thing. Coming into this class I assumed that PR was something you paid for. You would pay someone to create good press and a good buzz about what you want to promote. In reality you can only do so much to create that, the third party involved has to decide that this is what they are interested in promoting.

As an international relations major, I was interested in how PR is used between states, or in public diplomacy. The fundamentals of public diplomacy rely on relationships in general. Between states if you have previous relations you will trying to maintain your image as well as earning the praise or relationship with the other states involved. “International public relations between any organization and foreign publics focus on mutually beneficial for the sake of long term ends of consumerism or philanthropy” (Golan et al. 2015). Public relations I would think to be important in just about every field of work. Portraying a certain image is very important in international relations as well as it would be in medicine.

Public relations is vital to just about every industry. The ambiguity of what it entails is part of the intrigue, and finding out how to define it in each situation makes it even more interesting. It is an important thing to study because it applies to every part of our daily lives, as well as our professional lives. I look forward to learning how important PR is, as well as what goes into defining and understanding the construct of PR.




About Public Relations. Public Relations Society of America. Retrieved from

Golan, G. J., Yang, S., & Kinsey, D. F. (2015). International public relations and public        diplomacy: communication and engagement. Retrieved from         1920238&o=662&u=k4F9BVz%2b0OH%2fyBuoI4DaNw%3d%3d&t=1484766410&h= C7B0315C593F76D856762A3E866720F058D2AECE&s=52480687&ut=2049&pg=1&r    =img&c=-1&pat=n&cms=-1&sd=2#

Wynne, R. (2016, January 23). Five Things Everyone Should Know About Public Relations. Retrieved January 16, 2017, from   



2 thoughts on “The Public Image of Public Relations

  1. In my view, the major difference between Marketing and PR is the flow of information. Marketing is outward to a target audience, PR is a conversation, a two-way flow of information and opinions. The tools and tactics each use are often shared, which creates a bit of the confusion. Social media has blurred the lines so much that many organizations have opted to just call it Communications and have each discipline represented and working together. Best of luck on your journey.


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