What is PR really?

When someone asks me what my major is, I say, “PR”. They then proceed to nod thoughtfully and respond with, “Oh okay.” I have since come to the conclusion that most people don’t know exactly what PR is. If they think they do, they correlate it with a negative image of sleazy publicists, or more or less liars that use gimmicks and fluff to aid clients. They could also confuse us with socialite Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, but really…

 “We don’t buy ads.

We don’t write stories for reporters.

We don’t put up billboards.”

-Robert Wynne, Forbes

Our promotion stems from “earned” media, unlike “paid” media that advertisement agencies use.

In short, The PRSA defines Public Relations as a practice that analyzes and anticipates public opinions and issues that could impact a client, good or bad. PR agents allow their clients to see every course of action path that they could possibly consider and the public responsibilities, consequences or rewards that they come with. His or her job is to be over-informed on every marketing, financial and fund raising program that has existed and evaluate what needs to be done to achieve the organizations’ goals. PR agents set a plan with concrete objectives, create a budget and recruit and train staff to complete all of the above tasks. I see a Public Relations agent as the oil in a well-oiled machine.

The responsibilities of a PR person don’t stop at fixing what is behind the curtain, but they also deal with what comes center stage under the spotlight. He or she could be in charge of:

  •             Writing and distributing press releases, speeches and pitches
  •             Creating events designed for public consumption and the media
  •             Networking to the right contacts and attending the right events
  •             Conducting internal and external social media practices
  •             Managing any crises and giving appropriate responses to any negative public opinions

Currently there are an estimated 3 million PR practitioners worldwide, and the industry is growing. The PR industry increased by 11% in 2013 and collected a total of $12.5 billion in revenue worldwide. The Public Relations field is most developed in the US due to Internet and social media growth. More and more colleges across the US are implementing Public Relations as a major as the industry grows.  I am fortunate enough to go to Boston University, which has one of the most reputable undergraduate PR programs in the nation. Founded in 1978, our visionary PRLab is the oldest student run public relations agency in the country and has been recognized by BostInno and Platform Magazine this past year. By graduation, 35% of the class at BU will be PR majors, a significant increase from the 25% of first-year students that originally enroll in PR studies.

A day in the life of a PR agent, whether you work for a big firm or for an individual, requires you to run on all cylinders all day. You might start the morning with updating all social media accounts from Twitter to Instagram, and meet with three prospective clients all before noon . Even what is supposed to be your lunch break becomes a meeting with a journalist from The Boston Globe about an upcoming press release. Next comes a conference to brainstorm media tactics for your newest client, an athlete who now represents Red Bull energy drink. In the late afternoon, you finally sit down at your own desk to gather research about your renewable resource client, and what social media sites are saying about their new product release. As an active member of the PRSA, you have a meeting after you leave the office to discuss trends in brand management in social media. After the last meeting of the day, you may now head home to start replying to the hundreds of messages you have received during the day on multiple devices, and to confirm tomorrow goes off without a hitch. It sounds busy. It sounds overwhelming. But I look forward to learning how to be remarkable at my job. Not a sleaze, or a liar, but an honest promoter, fixer, and the one behind the ultimate success of a client.

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