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PR is Not an Acronym for Press Release & Other Musings of a PR Maven

After landing my first job in the public relations field, I remember family members and friends asking me, “What is public relations?” And, while I know the answer to that question, PR is not an easy field to define for most. Here at Element, we define public relations as a strategic communications process that grows brand awareness by building mutually beneficial relationships with your target audiences. You might be thinking, what does that really mean? Let me break it down for you.

First, let’s talk about what PR is not. PR is not a press release. It’s not random. It’s not advertising. And it’s definitely not spin.

Let’s take a moment to talk about press releases. Because while not everything warrants a press release, it’s still a valuable PR tactic when it makes sense. And when we do recommend a press release as a tactic, we write killer ledes, know AP-style frontwards and back, and understand what reporters mean when they say “descending order.” We distribute to targeted, planned media lists deliberately and complete timely follow-up. Just as with any public relations tactic, there’s a science to this process.

The word “random” does not exist in a PR pro’s vocabulary. Haphazard pitching, unplanned press release distributions, and spontaneous media outreach ends in disaster and zero results for clients. The most admired PR experts know how effective the distribution of information to appropriate audiences, at the right time, can be.

Unlike public relations, most people can define advertising. Also unlike public relations, advertising is a paid approach to promote a company or its products and services. PR is broad and earns exposure for a company through carefully planned tactics, which connect back to a strategy, such as media relations, influencer relations, social relations, event development, or third-party endorsements, such as a trade publication or consumer outlet.

Want to kick a PR professional where it counts? Call us spin-doctors. The term makes me shudder. Spin is like the Voldemort of public relations. While PR has been cast in a negative light in the past, I’ve never met a more ethical bunch than today’s PR leaders. We abide by a strict code of ethics, and you won’t find us gambling with our clients’ reputations.

Now, let’s define public relations again: a strategic communications process that grows brand awareness by building mutually beneficial relationships with your target audiences. You’re nodding your head, and it’s starting to click. Let me break it down a little further and define what PR is.

PR is storytelling.

When we welcome new PR clients to Element, we have a comprehensive onboarding process. That’s because there’s no brand guide for PR. We need to know our clients and their businesses inside and out. We need to dig deep to find and tell their true, raw stories, which is what we do best. Every company has great stories, but some don’t know how to uncover them. PR pros have a nose for news and an ear for finding the hidden gems. We’d also talk all day, if you’d let us … that’s where the storytelling comes in. But, we begin by listening and we do so with a purpose.

PR is strategic.

Every single communications tactic has an intent and measurable goal (I’ll touch on that next), and is traced back to a bigger, overarching strategy. Behind every great public relations campaign is a strategy that ties back to the business goals of our clients. Each tactic within a strategy is precisely timed to communicate the appropriate message to each audience effectively.

PR is measurable.

More marketing professionals than ever are recognizing the alignment of public relations within a marketing strategy. And, like a marketing plan, PR provides measurable results. That’s right, measurable! Our metrics are both quantitative and qualitative. For example, we can report on clicks from a contributed article to your website through tracking links, and we can depend on our clients to provide qualitative feedback on the number of sales leads they received from a prospect reading their bylined article. Thanks to the power of data and analytics, we can examine where your media traffic is going once they reach owned properties.

PR is relationship-building.

We have a lot of friends. From building open and honest relationships with clients, the media, industry influencers, social media influencers, and even our clients’ customers and employees, our days are filled with developing real connections and probing for mutually beneficial opportunities. Not only do we spend time conversing with audiences, we spend time learning about them too. To develop personal, authentic connections, we read their articles, follow them on social media, learn about their beats, and do our research to understand how they like to be contacted and pitched. While distribution technology is extremely valuable and essential, this is the human connection that a software or contact database can’t tell us. It’s the real, boots on the ground stuff.

PR is reputation management.

When companies have particularly sensitive news to announce, they turn to PR pros to manage their reputation. Because of the positive connections we make with a company’s media outlets and influencers, there’s no better person for the job. With today’s various platforms for airing grievances, it’s easier than ever for a business’ reputation to suffer. PR pros know it’s important to act fast, with an agreed-upon message to mend broken relationships and rebuild or sustain a reputation. Crock-Pot recently did a stellar job of what we like to call reputation management. Also, #RIPJack.

PR is ethical.

As PR professionals, we take our ethical responsibilities very seriously, and proper ethical conduct is of utmost importance. Here at Element, we follow the code of ethics outlined by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

PR is a juggling act.

If you haven’t noticed, we walk a fine line … while juggling bowling pins and waving to multiple audiences … all with a smile, of course. In all seriousness, think about the number of different stakeholders in a company. Employees, boards, customers, influencers, media, just to name a few. It’s our job to tend to each of these audiences to ensure successful communications, a positive brand image, and earned media coverage to tell a business’ story.

Lightbulb moment!

The next time you consider distributing a press release (a public relations tactic, remember?), contact our Element PR experts to help you take a closer look. Perhaps there’s a deeper connection we can build together and a stronger method of communication to really get you noticed.


Be the most enlightened person around the water cooler.