What is PR?

Two and a half years into it and I still struggle to respond.

Amongst the gluttony and excess television that Christmas brought us all there is one question that kept cropping up amongst family and family friends; so what do you do, then?

I work in PR.

Simple answer, however the next question required more thought; no but what does that mean?

Well. What is PR? Sure there are hundreds of definitions available online, indeed America’s PRSA redefined PR last year as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” and no doubt prospective graduates are repeating back in interviews but today, what does it really mean to work as a PR professional? Rather than ending this blog post with a video of Ab Fab (I wish I could) here are the three things I think PR is today:

1. It’s all about meejyah (media) darling. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Ab Fab reference)
Well yes, that’s obvious, isn’t it? If you work agency side you have a set of clients who want your access to their target media and if you work in-house you are in charge of spreading your company’s message in the media.

Aside from conferences, gone are the boozy lunches and dinners; replaced coldly by the Gorkana and the Google search. Shrinking editorial teams and tighter budgets aren’t allowing for them.

Don’t get me wrong, the ability to schmooze is still really important, but the ability to keep on top of the never ending daily beat of news presents a greater challenge.

A PR needs to be a pro at the Google search in order to answer the following questions; Who’s writing about the event your client is attending? What do they think? What else have they written? Are they tweeting about it? What sorts of comments do their articles illicit?

Most importantly, how are you going to try and convince the media to take interest in what you have to say?

2. It’s just Facebook and Twitter, right?
No.

If you’re ‘digital’ then it all becomes about social media. If you start working in PR you might be managing a community or tweeting on behalf of a brand because you’re young and ‘da yoof’ get it, right? So you could say that your job is a professional Facebooker, a dream job for many.

This is unsustainable and soon won’t be true. The most intelligent PR pros I’ve met are thinking more strategically about how your client or brand should fit on social media. Is your client really (no, I mean it, REALLY?) a social one? If its not then don’t force it. You’re wasting your time. Nike and other companies deciding to move their social media in-house is a perfect example that tweeting and posting on Facebook isn’t going to be in the longer term job description for PR pros.

To that end PR is about understanding how to represent companies responsibly online and making sure that social media fits if necessary.

3. It’s all about the right coverage
Generating coverage is a great feeling. From finding the journalist’s name on Gorkana to making the call to selling the pitch and following up, when it is in print or online that’s a warm feeling to show off what you have done. That’s a great personal achievement, but let’s look at the bigger picture.

Sometimes it is about AVE (reference previous blog post) or the volume of coverage generated to prove a job well done. Nowadays, however, it’s about the business impact of coverage. Has that piece in the Mail Online actually led to an increase in sales? You may have gotten 15 pieces of coverage, but are they in titles that appear highly in the Google Page Rank?

Going back to the question; but what does PR mean?

I could have said it is about meeting and greeting journalists but there is so much more. What I should have replied is that it’s being a master of the Google search, understanding what social media is doing to how we behave and are influenced and its about generating business results as a result of coverage in the right places.
That’s the answer I should have used.

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