Public relations

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Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public.[1] Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.[3] Public Relations (PR) is the practice of managing the communication between an organization and its ‘publics’. Public relations gains an organization individual exposure to their audience(s) using topics of public interest and news items that provide third-party endorsement and do not involve direct payment.


Most textbooks consider the establishment of the Publicity Bureau in 1900 to be the founding of the public relations profession. However academics have found early forms of public influence and communications management in ancient civilizations, during the settling of the New World and during the movement to abolish slavery in England. Basil Clark is considered the founder of public relations in the United Kingdom for his establishment of Editorial Services in 1924, though academic Noel Turnball believes PR was founded in Britain first by evangelicals and Victorian reformers.

Propaganda was used by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and others to rally for domestic support and demonize enemies during the World Wars, which led to more sophisticated commercial publicity efforts as public relations talent entered the private sector. Most historians believe public relations became established first in the US by Ivy Lee or Edward Bernays, then spread internationally. Many American companies with PR departments spread the practice to Europe when they created European subsidiaries as a result of the Marshall plan.

The second half of the 1900s is considered the professional development building era of public relations. Trade associations, PR news magazines, international PR agencies, and academic principles for the profession were established. In the early 2000s, press release services began offering social media press releases. The Cluetrain Manifesto, which predicted the impact of social media in 1999, was controversial in its time, but by 2006, the effect of social media and new internet technologies became broadly accepted.

Salaries and Growth[edit]

According to the U.S. News and World Report, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2012, the median annual salary for public relations practitioners was $54,170. The top ten percent in the field made about $101,030, and the bottom ten percent made about $30,760. [4]

For public relations managers, however, the median annual wage in 2011 was $93,310. Workers in the 90th percentile earned around $176,400, and workers in the 10th percentile earned $50,360, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. [5]

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects an employment growth of 12 percent between 2012 and 2022 for the profession, where an additional 27,400 jobs will need to be filled. The public relations profession has claimed the No. 85 spot on the 2014 U.S. News and World Report list of Best Jobs because of its promising direction. [6]

In the United States, public relations professionals earn an average annual salary of $49,800 which compares with £40,000 for a practitioner with a similar job in the UK.[7] Top earners make around $89,220 annually, while entry-level public relations specialists earn around $28,080.[8] Corporate, or in-house communications is generally more profitable, and communications executives can earn salaries in the mid six-figures, though this only applies to a fraction[need quotation to verify] of the sector's workforce.[9]

The role of public relations professionals is changing because of the shift from traditional to online media. Many PR professionals are finding it necessary to learn new skills and to examine how social media can impact a brand's reputation.[10]

Notable People in PR[edit]

The PR world has generated important and notable practitioners, policy-changers, publicists and CEOs. [11]

Beth Comstock, SVP and CMO of General Electric
Kelly Cutrone, Television personality and Founder of People's Revolution PR firm
Stephanie Cutter, Campaign Manager for President Obama
Richard Edelman, President and CEO of Edelman PR firm
Christopher Graves, Global CEO of Ogilvy PR Worldwide
David Krane, Google Ventures and former PR official at Google
Dana Lengkeek, Head of PR at Yahoo!
Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Communications and Public Policy at Facebook
Rachel Whetstone, Head of PR at Google


Public relations professionals present the face of an organization or individual, usually to articulate its objectives and official views on issues of relevance, primarily to the media. Public relations contributes to the way an organization is perceived by influencing the media and maintaining relationships with stakeholders. According to Dr. Jacquie L’Etang from Queen Margaret University, public relations professionals can be viewed as "discourse workers specializing in communication and the presentation of argument and employing rhetorical strategies to achieve managerial aims."[12]

Specific public relations disciplines include:

Within each discipline, typical activities include publicity events, speaking opportunities, press releases, newsletters, blogs, social media, press kits and outbound communication to members of the press. Video and audio news releases (VNRs and ANRs) are often produced and distributed to TV outlets in hopes they will be used as regular program content.

Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization or individual’s audiences has a central role in doing public relations.[13][14] After a public relations practitioner has been working in the field, they accumulate a list of relationships that become an asset, especially for those in media relations.

Audience targeting[edit]

A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience, and to tailor messages to be relevant to each audience.[15] Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders common to a public relations effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but complementary messages.

On the other hand, stakeholder theory identifies people who have a stake in a given institution or issue.[16] All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if a charity commissions a public relations agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease, the charity and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who is likely to donate money.


Messaging is the process of creating a consistent story around a product, person, company or service. Messaging aims to avoid having readers receive contradictory or confusing information that will instill doubt in their purchasing choice or other decisions that have an impact on the company. Brands aim to have the same problem statement, industry viewpoint or brand perception shared across sources and media.

Social media marketing[edit]

Digital marketing is the use of Internet tools and technologies such as search engines, Web 2.0 social bookmarking, new media relations, blogging and social media marketing. Interactive PR allows companies and organizations to disseminate information without relying solely on mainstream publications and communicate directly with the public, customers and prospects. We will continue to witness changes in public relations practices. People wishing to pursue a future with PR will be required to think differently. They will have to adopt new strategies and learn new ways to conduct searches. During the first years of social media, PR had a hard time keeping up with the speed of these new technologies (Breakenridge, 2012). PR practitioners have always relied on the media such as TV, Radio, and Magazines to promote their ideas and messages tailored specifically for a given audience. Social media marketing is not only a new way to achieve that goal but it's also a continuation of a strategy that existed for decades. "Digital media can be seen as a continuation and extension of a principal or technique that was already in place" (Lister, Dovey, Giddings, Grant & Kelly, 2009). PR professionals are well aware of the fact that digital technology is used in a practically different way than before. For instance, cellphones are no longer just devices we use to talk to one another. They are also used for online shopping, dating, learning and getting the most up to date news around the world (Tapscott, 2009).

Other techniques[edit]

Litigation public relations is the management of the communication process during the course of any legal dispute or adjudicatory processing so as to affect the outcome or its impact on the client’s overall reputation (Haggerty, 2003).


The field of public relations is generally highly un-regulated, but many professionals voluntarily adhere to the code of conduct of one or more professional bodies to avoid exposure for ethical violations.[17] The Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the Public Relations Society of America and The Institute of Public Relations are a few organizations that publish an ethical code. Still, Edelman's 2003 semi-annual trust survey found that only 20 percent of survey respondents from the public believed paid communicators within a company were credible.[18]

According to Scott Cutlip, the social justification for public relations is the right for an organization to have a fair hearing of their point-of-view in the public forum, but to obtain such a hearing for their ideas requires a skilled advocate.[19]


Spin has been interpreted historically to mean overt deceit meant to manipulate the public, but since the 1990s has shifted to describing a "polishing of the truth."[20] Today spin refers to providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion.[21] Companies may use spin to create the appearance of the company or other events are going in a slightly different direction than they actually are.[20] Within the field of public relations, spin is seen as a derogatory term, interpreted by professionals as meaning blatant deceit and manipulation.[22][23] Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors."

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.

Negative PR[edit]

Negative public relations, also called dark public relations (DPR) and in some earlier writing "Black PR", is a process of destroying the target's reputation and/or corporate identity. The objective in DPR is to discredit someone else, who may pose a threat to the client's business or be a political rival. DPR may rely on IT security, industrial espionage, social engineering and competitive intelligence. Common techniques include using dirty secrets from the target, producing misleading facts to fool a competitor.[24][25][26][27]

Politics and civil society[edit]

In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy.[28] In public relations, lobby groups are created to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion, typically in a way that benefits the sponsoring organization.

When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base, it is known as a front group.[29] Front groups are a form of astroturfing, because they intend to sway the public or the government without disclosing their financial connection to corporate or political interests. They create a fake grass-roots movement by giving the appearance of a trusted organization that serves the public, when they actually serve their sponsors.

Politicians also employ public relations professionals to help project their views, policies and even personalities to their best advantages.[30]


It is something that is not tangible; this is what sets it apart from advertising. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines PR as "the business of inducing the public to have goodwill toward a person, firm or institution". "Public relation is a planned effort to influence opinion through socially responsible and acceptable performance, based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication." PR can be used to build rapport with employees, customers, investors, voters, or the general public. Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations.The department is considered as a link between the company and the media.[citation needed]

Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s as

"a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization... followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance."

In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined the field as

"the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest."[31]

Public Relations Society of America, a professional trade association,[32] defined public relations in 1982 as:

"Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."[33]

In 2011 and 2012, the PRSA developed a crowd-sourced definition:

"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."[34]

Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grunig, James E; Hunt, Todd (1984), Managing Public Relations (6th ed.), Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 
  2. ^ Seitel, Fraser P. (2007), The Practice of Public Relations. (10th ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall 
  3. ^ Rubel, Gina F. (2007), Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers (1st ed.), Doylestown, PA, ISBN 978-0-9801719-0-7 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ [when?] [1]
  8. ^ $alaries in the City, New York Magazine, archived from the original on 24 December 2013 
  9. ^ "Public Relations Specialist Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Public Relations Specialists". 
  10. ^ Media consumption is diversifying, finds Ofcom, New Media Age, 19 August 2010 
  11. ^
  12. ^ L'Etang, Jacquie (2 September 2004). Public Relations in Britain: A History of Professional Practice in the Twentieth Century. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-4106-1081-2. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Phillips, David (2006), "Towards relationship management: Public relations at the core of organizational development", Journal of Communication Management (Emerald Group Publishing Limited) 
  14. ^ Kamau, C. (2009) Strategising impression management in corporations: cultural knowledge as capital. In D. Harorimana (Ed) Cultural implications of knowledge sharing, management and transfer: identifying competitive advantage. Chapter 4. Information Science Reference. ISBN 978-1-60566-790-4
  15. ^ Franklin, Bob; Hogan, Mike; Langley, Quentin; Mosdell, Nick; Pill, Elliot (2009). "Target audience". Key concepts in public relations. SAGE. p. 227. ISBN 978-1-4129-2318-7. 
  16. ^ Freeman, R Edward (2004), "The Stakeholder Approach Revisited", Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensethik (Rainer Hampp Verlag) 5 (3) 
  17. ^ Marshall, Tim (2002). "Ethics – Who needs them?". Journal of Communication Management 7 (2): 107–112. doi:10.1108/13632540310807313. ISSN 1363-254X. 
  18. ^ Natasha Tobin, (2005), "Can the professionalisation of the UK public relations industry make it more trustworthy?", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 9 Iss: 1 pp. 56 - 64
  19. ^ Cutlip, Scott (1994), The Unseen Power: Public Relations: A History, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, ISBN 0-8058-1464-7 
  20. ^ a b Safire, William (1996) The Spinner Spun
  21. ^ The Free Dictionary
  22. ^ Spin Doctor a Derogatory Term That Needs to Go, Dilenschneider Says. Don Hale PR. Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  23. ^ Dear Gracie: Is ‘Flack’ a Four-Letter Word? | Beyond PR. (2012-02-17). Retrieved on 2013-07-16.
  24. ^ Wattenberg, Martin P. (22 Aug. 1996). Negative Campaign Advertising: Demobilizer or Mobilizer. eScholarship Repository. UC Irvine, Department of Politics and Society. Retrieved on 29 January 2005
  25. ^ Bike, William S. (28 March 2004). Campaign Guide: Negative Campaigning. City: San Diego. Retrieved on 3 August 2005.
  26. ^ Saletan, William (25 November 1999). Three Cheers for Negative Campaigning. Slate. City: Washington. Retrieved on 3 August 2005.
  27. ^ Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate? Stephen Ansolabehere, Shanto Iyengar, Adam Simon, Nicholas Valentino, 1994, American Political Science Review, 88:829-838; Winning, But Losing, Ansolabehere and Iyenger, 1996
  28. ^ Edward Bernays Propaganda (1928) p. 10
  29. ^ See Peter Viggo Jakobsen, Focus on the CNN Effect Misses the Point: The Real Media Impact on Conflict Management is Invisible and Indirect, Journal of Peace Research, vol.37, no.2. Institute of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (2000).
  30. ^ Oakes, Laurie (2010), On the Record: Politics, Politicians and Power, Hachette Australia, p. 191, ISBN 97807336272002 Check |isbn= value (help) 
  31. ^ Jensen Zhao. Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd. Ed. Retrieved from
  32. ^ . ISBN 9780470144923  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ PRSA's Old Definition of Public Relations
  34. ^ Stuart Elliot (March 1, 2012). "Public Relations Defined, After an Energetic Public Discussion". New York Times. 
  35. ^ Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e. Public relations is what you do with what you know and what other think about what you say.

Lister, M., Dovey, J., Giddings, S., Grant, I., & Kelly, K. (2009). New media: A critical introduction. (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. Tapscott, D. (2009). Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world. New York: McGraw hill.

Further reading[edit]