What is public relations?

PR includes more than publicity or media relations, particularly in a world where brands increasingly communicate directly to the public.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations as "a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

Many people consider PR synonymous with media relations and think of PR practitioners as publicists. While building relationships with the news media and securing media coverage is the best-known aspect of public relations, it is only one element of the function.

Today, PR encompasses or overlaps heavily with brand journalism, content marketing, marketing communications, social media, influencer relations, crisis communications, speechwriting, employee communications, event management, and more.

Beyond the news media, PR practitioners today communicate directly with a variety of audiences, including consumers and investors. Social media and brand journalism empower brands to reach their publics in an unfiltered fashion, with the gatekeeper role of the news media having been diminished over time. Coverage in the news media is still vitally important to establishing third-party credibility for many brands.

Public relations includes disciplines that can be thought of "offensive" or "defensive" in nature. Crisis communications and reputation management, for example, are designed to protect a brand's equity against various threats; these are examples of "defensive" PR. Public relations that goes on the offensive is typically marketing-focused; it's PR geared to support an organization's growth objectives.