What is Public Relations (PR)?

Definition: Public relations (PR) is the process that aims to build and maintain good relationships with specific target groups in order to enjoy positive reputation among them. The term is applied not only to the practice but also to the profession and the organizational department that develops communications and activities to promote a positive institutional image among the general public or in particular target groups.

What Does Public Relations Mean?

Public relations, commonly referred to as PR, is an important function in most organizations. Firms try to persuade people to have positive opinions about their products, leadership or institution. Large companies tend to have a specific department to develop this function but in smaller organizations the General Manager informally does it. When practicing public relations, the person or department in charge defines messages, means and audiences according to particular objectives.

Public relations can also be developed through activities like presence in certain public events and support of visible social groups. The actions differ from advertising because they are not-paid publicity and can be perceived simply like opinions or non-planned actions. A good PR is always useful, but it is highly valuable when a company faces destructive public opinions related to bad product quality or poor ethics.

Example

Vegefruit Co. is a successful company that sells canned juices made from a blend of vegetables and fruits. It targets health-concerned people and therefore associates the brand image to sports, fitness and healthy nutrition. Vegefruit’s General Manager attended a party and was pictured smoking and drinking alcohol. He also looked obese. Several social networks distributed massively the picture with hard comments about the inconsistency between the executive’s personal image and the brand.

As a consequence, sales decreased 20% over the next three months. The company then hired an expert in Public Relations who planned some actions to improve the brand image. Other top executives attended public marathons and were pictured when running at parks. They also appeared in TV interviews as nutrition experts to talk about health and fitness topics. The General Manager was photographed six months later but this time in good shape and attending a public sports event. People reacted well and sales recovered their previous level.