What is Public Relations?

Public relations involves activities that are intended to cultivate positive relations with key organizations and groups through the use of a variety of communications channels and tools. Traditionally, this meant a company’s public relations team would work with members of the news media to publicize the organization and/or its products in an attempt to gain favorable stories in print and broadcast media. However, today the role of public relations is much broader and includes:

  • Communicating with targeted customers by offering useful and timely information about an organization and its products.
  • Closely monitoring numerous media channels for public comment about an organization and its products.
  • Building goodwill among an organization’s customers, business partners, local community, and others by conducting special programs and events.
  • Managing crises that threaten the image of an organization or its products.

In this tutorial, most of our focus is on how public relations supports marketing by building product and company image (sometimes referred to as publicity). Yet it should be noted that there are other stakeholders an organization reaches via the public relations function, such as employees and non-target market groups. Favorable media coverage about a company or product often reaches these audiences as well and may offer potential benefit to the marketer.

Finally, it is worth noting that in most large organizations there are other aspects to public relations which are not necessarily marketing related. Specifically, investor relations (IR) or financial public relations focus on financial issues facing organizations. These areas are guided by specific legal disclosure regulations. However, coverage of this type of PR will not be provided here.