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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Pitillo

The importance of defining PR

Defining public relations is always a tricky thing to do. If you are in the public relations industry, you know that when people ask, “what is PR?” everyone has a different answer. And if you don't work in the public relations industry, you might have wondered what it entails. As PR students, we learn the textbook definition that is similar to the Public Relations Society of America’s definition, which is “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Public relations practitioners’ definition of PR will often vary depending on their previous experiences. For Merrita Llarena, a PR practitioner that has been in the industry for five years, PR is about helping “shape people's stories.” This perspective goes along with the textbook definition of creating a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its publics.

Shaping a company's story to help them move forward with what they are trying to achieve is everything. A company can be amazing, but if they do not know how to tell their story effectively, they will be unable to create mutually beneficial relationships. “We come up with a bunch of different story angles that we think would help tell their story in a seamless and digestible way for their audience,” said Llarena.

A study conducted by Candace White and Joosuk Park found that “public relations has been portrayed in the media in a consistently negative manner over several decades, providing images that may become part of public perceptions.” Those who don't know or understand what public relations is, could fall into this trap of perceiving it in a negative light.

Learning about public relations and the functions it has would be very beneficial to the entire industry. For the average consumer, it could allow them to see public relations in a positive light. But a company's perceptions of public relations is more important. They need to understand the definition of PR so that they see how valuable it is. Once they understand the benefits of PR, they can use it to their advantage.

Showing companies the value of public relations is important because this industry is always evolving. It changes and grows with society. Public relations practitioners know how valuable they are to their clients and companies. It is time everyone else understands this too.

Courtney is a senior at San Diego State University working towards a degree in Public Relations. She is certified to teach yoga and loves to take her dogs to the beach. After graduation, she hopes to work in entertainment or technology PR somewhere in San Diego or Los Angeles.

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