Back to basics: What is PR?

When people ask me ‘what do you do for work?’ the answer ‘Public Relations’ can commonly get one of two responses:

  1. A smug comment about PR stereotypes as party girls and spin doctors.
  2. ‘Isn’t PR just like marketing?’

The simplest way to introduce Public Relations, and also one of our favourites is, as Professor of Corporate Communications Anne Gregory puts it, “it does what it says on the tin.”

In other words, PR is focused on creating and maintaining “mutually beneficial relationships” between a business and its publics.

Reputation Matters

A company’s reputation within the business environment has always been a vital factor for profitability and overall success. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) describes PR as being “about reputation, the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

Corporate reputation is focused on how key publics perceive your brand, whereas PR (in general) focuses on the relationship between the company and key publics.


This is where we come in… A PR practitioner’s role is to manage both the corporate reputation and relationships. Reputation and relations are closely interlinked and the role of a PR practitioner is to ensure a company’s ‘mutually beneficial’ relationships are maintained.

But what does that involve?

A strong reputation is largely achieved through positive exposure of a company’s actions – actions such as transparency of information, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and predominantly more traditional methods of creating positive brand awareness. In short, delivering sustained positive press media coverage.

A company’s reputation whether that be their image, identity or brand, all predict the quality and strength of relationships. As reputation is a result of a company’s actions, it is obvious that a company with a good reputation will have strong relationships with its publics, making it more likely that people will want to work with them or use their products and services. Ultimately, stakeholders and publics are what keep a company successful.

Why PR Cannot Be Ignored.

The much debated argument that PR is just a branch of marketing, comes with fair reasoning. PR does come under the umbrella of the marketing mix (alongside advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing and personal selling). It is true PR is commonly used alongside the other tools under the marketing umbrella by companies to enhance their return on investment (ROI). However there are still many key fundamental differences that set PR apart from the marketing mix as a profession in its own rights.

With the increasing demand and globally dominant view that organisations should be actively aware of social, ethical and environmental issues, PR is now being highlighted by marketing and advertising as a tool to help boost commercial business and reputation.

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However, PR has always been a prominent aspect of business, just overshadowed by marketing and advertising when the corporate world was dominantly finance focused. Yet, in the new digital age of social media, the public are becoming increasingly able to see past a company’s advertising and marketing strategies.

The ability to access information about an organisation online through social media, reviews and news platforms has resulted in increased CSR, strengthening relationships and further reputation management. All these PR activities focus on trust and building relationships with the public as individual people not just consumers of a product or service.

If you would like advice on how to develop and sustain your company’s reputation, please get in touch.