As the head of a public relations agency, it is always difficult for me to explain in clear terms what the job entails.
The profession is not well known and still evokes, in the minds of some, networking at cocktail parties… a very 20th-century vision of the profession where the public relations manager would hobnob around while maintaining his address book. Others think, wrongly, that PR work consists of commissioning articles from journalists or buying media space for an advertising campaign. The job is quite different, let’s decipher!
How to define public relations ?
The Public Relations Society of America PRSA offers the following definition: “Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics or stakeholders. It fulfills an essential duty to inform society. Its importance will certainly increase in the coming years.
The proposed definition raises two major issues:
- The relationship is mutually beneficial, no one is cheated and each party wins.
- Public relations are part of a corporate strategy. They are not not due to chance and are deployed by managers in pursuit of a specific objective.
Public relations is a part of communications: promotion of a product, nomination of a person, valorisation of an idea, designation of a value, sustainable or digital transformation… Unlike advertising (paid content), PR is based on non-monetized communications methods (earned content) which are not “won in advance”, and are part of a dialogue. A real work of persuasion.
Whether it is traditional media, social networks, conferences, publications, studies, positions or opinions, we communicate through reliable and transparent sources, in accordance with a demanding ethical practice, which is the basis of all relationships.
Information is therefore not entirely “under control”. It passes through the expertise of a third party: journalist, speaker, researcher, opinion leader, partner… until it finds its place in public opinion. Once approved by this public of experts, it is all the more valuable.
The job requires listening, personal relationship work, attention to the interlocutor, frankness and transparency as well as a balance between action and communications, far from empty phrases and concepts that can often be counterproductive.
In the same way that medicine guarantees health and law guarantees order, the aim of communications and public relations is to maintain trust and mutual understanding and thus to contribute to the development of society. In these times of crisis of confidence in political and economic leaders and in the face of fake news and other manipulations, communications are more important than ever in order to create a positive image of the company in the long term and to establish a climate of trust.