Explaining public relations: A student perspective on PR

Many people ask me to define public relations (PR) and wonder why I am going to school for it. These are fair questions and I will attempt to answer them as simply as I can.


(Photo:  Niuton May | Flickr)

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines it as a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Put simply, PR is all about brand management. Unbeknownst to the public, nearly everyone and everything is or can be a brand. Even your personal Facebook or Twitter account is a representation of you, or your brand.

This is why employers will look to these social mediums to do research. Additionally, it is why you, as your own brand manager, should be aware of what you are putting out there. As one of my professors constantly reminds me, Google never forgets!

You should also be aware of your interaction between yourself and others. How you treat others, respond to social media, and share what you are interested in all reflect who you are as a person/brand. Before school, I had never thought of this before and now I cannot stop thinking about it.

So what does someone in public relations do?

While I cannot name every aspect of PR there is, because new ideas and technology are constantly changing the landscape, I can offer some insight into some of what someone working in PR does.


PR practitioners constantly have to write to journalists, bloggers, consultants, consumers, corporations, and more. Many times a PR pitch is through email or press/news releases distributed via an industry aggregation site such as PR Newswire.

What is it exactly? A pitch is an opportunity that one uses to interest another party to care about something that they may or may not normally have. Imagine you are having a job interview in an elevator in which you have only that 30-second ride to convince your potential boss to hire you. That is a pitch and it is why good writing is very important, despite what the Internet wants you to believe.

Content Writing

Everyone’s writing can be critiqued, and it often is. This is probably one of the tougher parts of PR. A strong writer needs to utilize their best writing skills for content creation. What is content? Put simply, it is anything that engages another user to interest them in more from that brand.

Content can be in the form of a picture, a video, a blog post, a news article, an advertisement, or many other forms. Behind every good idea is a good writer.

Crisis Management

Crisis Management is a plan that a brand has to deal with a crisis. In an ideal world, all brands want to be proactive and have a plan in place. Unfortunately, many brands fail and either do not anticipate or respond reactively. By that time, the damage is dealt.

This is one of the harder aspects of public relations because it requires forward thinking, a multitude of ideas, and various channels with which to disseminate a message. Despite all of this, you may still fail. In an age of consumer power through the Internet and social media, brands are taking heat and must be more transparent and accountable for everything.

Social Media

We all use social media, even brands. You may even have come to this post from one of my social media messages. Let’s face it, the world does not stop when you go to bed. A brand has to be on 24-hour watch seven days a week.

This is increasingly important because ideas on the Internet spread quickly. Justine Sacco, a PR practitioner, learned this the hard way when she tweeted what she thought was a harmless joke before her plane ride. What happened after her plane landed? She did not have a job.

This is why I implore anyone reading this blog post to take a very good look at their social media and make sure it is private, you screen your friends, and you make good judgment calls on social media.


Photo: Smart Phone and Tablet | Adweek


Event Planning

Events help bring awareness to a brand and are often newsworthy. Event planning is also underrated.

Showing up at an event is easy, but putting one together is difficult. Reinforcing these statements is my experience with my internship at the Streeterville Chamber of Commerce and through any events that I have hosted. You have to think about anything and everything. Some ideas to think about include:

  • Whether people have to park
  • How do they get there
  • What time should they arrive
  • How much does rent cost for your event
  • How much is food
  • How many people are coming
  • What happens if something goes wrong
  • Do you have insurance if someone is hurt
  • Is there enough items for everyone
  • What will cleanup be like
  • And much, much more…

There are many aspects to the field and it is constantly evolving. It is also not a 9 to 5 job because we all live in a 24-hour world of news. I hope that the subjects mentioned above helped you to get a better idea of what PR consists of and why it is so important. If you’re interesting in what some PR writing looks like, check out the portfolio section of my website for some samples that I wrote in my public relations writing class.

Does this make you more conscious about your social media usage? Let me know what you are thinking in the comments below.

If you have any other questions, or wish to know more, feel free to reach out to me on social media or through email.


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