What is Public Relations?

Early in my career when I worked for a newspaper, my parents always felt they knew what I did for a living since they could see the bylines on the stories I wrote.  I had a lot more difficulty explaining my job when I moved into public relations.  I hadn’t studied PR nor did I know much about the profession since it was customary then for most PR people tocome from the media, and then get trained in PR on the job.

Since starting this blog, I’ve received several requests for more information about the types of jobs available in PR.  So, I thought it might be good to step back a bit and offer up a definition of PR that I wish was available when I was talking with my parents many long years ago.  The following post comes via an informative blog from Colorado State University’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communications.  Professor Kirk Hallahan indicates this site is being updated to provide even more information. 


Working in Public Relations

Interested in a career that involves using communications to solve problems and to create opportunities so that organizations can be successful? 

If so, you should consider a career in public relations.  More than 400,000 people are employed in public relations in the United States. These professionals work for:

  • corporations and for-profit businesses,
  • consulting firms and agencies, and
  • not-for-profit organizations (including government, trade and professional associations, membership organizations, political organizations, health and human services agencies, and educational and cultural institutions).

Public relations professionals utilize their knowledge of communications and public opinion to counsel organization managements and to create communications programs designed to forge positive relationships with important constituencies of all kinds, including

  • customers
  • employees
  • investors and donors
  • government and regulatory officials
  • and the community at large.

Public relations people play an active role in addressing many important contemporary issues, which makes their work interesting, relevant and rewarding in today’s society.  Public relations people hold titles such as

  • Publicist, media relations specialist
  • Publications editor, writer
  • Multimedia and video producer
  • Webmaster (for World Wide Web sites)
  • Fundraiser, development officer
  • Speechwriter
  • Community relations specialist, contributions manager, outreach coordinator
  • Human resources, benefits or training specialist
  • Lobbyist, political action coordinator
  • Special events and meeting planner
  • Marketing, promotions specialist
  • Researcher
  • Executive director (for not-for-profit organizations)

All public relations work involves the ability to communicate effectively using the spoken and written word; many practitioners are also involved in the production of visual images. These are delivered through an expanding array of traditional and new communications technologies, including oral communications, print, audio-visuals, broadcast and computer-mediated communications.What does it take to be successful in public relations?

  • Proficiency in writing and editing–skills that can be learned through practice
  • Ability to make often complex ideas simple and easy to understand
  • Critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities, based on a broad liberal arts education
  • Inquisitiveness about a broad range of topics, including an on-going interest in current events and trends
  • Respect for and the ability to work with people representing a diversity of background, interests and viewpoints.
  • A solid liberal arts education, and specific knowledge of a particular field or industry.


2 thoughts on “What is Public Relations?

  1. But the ‘what is?’ question is much easier to answer than the ‘why do?’ question. In other words, what’s the purpose of public relations.

    For some, it’s simply publicity. For others relationships or reputation; some even aim for a higher social good.

  2. I am a college student in my senior year at Florida Int’l University. I knew PR was the field I HAD to study because of the amount of “change” you can affect within any type of industry you choose.

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