What is PR?

PR ad peoplePR is often used interchangeably with marketing, advertising and is, paradoxically, often misunderstood. While academics, PR gurus and institutions have highly considered descriptions, this vivid explanation attributed to American author S. H. Simmons, sums it up quite nicely.


“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.”


Public relations is essentially what it says – building a relationship with your publics or, to put it another way, audiences. The ‘publics’ or audiences can include customers, shareholders, potential clients and other stakeholders.


For most SMEs, PR is often focused on publicity – making people aware of their business, products or services for the right reasons. The aim being to create a positive perception, build trust and credibility for your market.


Small and medium sized businesses are likely to benefit from concentrating on publicity as they grow. In other words the press releases, the events, the column inches, often referred to as ‘free advertising’ have more credibility than some other forms of marketing.


However cynical we may say we are about journalists, we do still, largely, trust the news. When someone chooses to write about your business, product or service, or feature it on radio or television, they are saying that it is interesting, remarkable, or newsworthy.


The audience knows that this is likely to be unbiased and you have not paid for the coverage as with advertising. If this news is positive, then you gain trust and recognition from the coverage.