I have just completed a four year degree in Business with Public Relations (PR). I spent one of those years working as a PR Assistant for a beauty company in London. Throughout those four years, I also interned with a lot of different agencies that specialised in PR and worked part-time as an internal communications assistant.
When I am asked the question, ‘What is PR?’ I often draw a blank and don’t really know where to begin. Of the jobs I have had, they have all been associated with PR. But how does getting coverage for perfume, creating an internal newsletter for 400 employees, compiling a list of pantomime producers and contacting influencers all fall under tasks involved with PR? These are all tasks that I have carried out in my internships and jobs, but no PR job that I’ve had has really been identical.
So then, how can I tell someone what PR is when I don’t really know myself? For me, it seems that public relations is now too broad a term. There are just so many different branches of PR, that when describing it, you generally have to know the specific area that the person is talking about. I mean, I could start talking all about media relations when the person actually meant internal communications. They both fall under the term ‘public relations’ but the two involve quite different tasks and roles.
The defining moment
The definition of PR given by the CIPR goes like this, “Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you”.
But is it time to scrap having a definition of public relations and instead use it to describe the different branches that come under it? The one thing I find that all branches have in common is that it’s to do with people (public) and communications (relations). But can we describe both influencer marketing and corporate affairs with the same definition that covers public relations?
I can see that all branches are somewhat related to reputation, however – so the definition given by the CIPR is something that I can agree with. I have always said that my favourite quote about PR actually came from one of the first episodes of Gossip Girl by Lonely Boy aka Dan Humphrey aka Gossip Girl himself; “You’re nobody until you’re talked about.”
When I say I study a public relations degree, it opens me up to so much more than one particular career.
The list of careers that I could have with a degree in PR is endless. It’s one of my favourite reasons for doing the very degree. I have a lot of open doors now that I’ve finished university and I can also work in any industry/sector of my choosing which is one of the best things about working and following a career in public relations.
I mean, I’ve spent a year being the PR Assistant for luxury beauty brands, but could apply to be the Press Assistant for Liverpool Football Club, or a Publicist’s Assistant at Sony Music Group or the PR Assistant for Disneyland. The opportunities are endless and it’s the best to not have to tie yourself to one industry forever.
When it comes to careers in PR, there are so many to choose from. In university, we covered the majority of them and even added in modules on Marketing, Human Resources and Finance and Accounting. Possible career paths within public relations include (but are not limited to): media relations, crisis communications, publicity, influencer marketing, internal communications, corporate communications, digital marketing and social media management.
So how do I define my job?
At this present moment in time, I am working part-time at my internal communications job. It is very linked to my degree, yet if someone asked me what it was that I did, I wouldn’t tell them I worked in PR; I would tell them I worked in communications.
However, if I worked in a job that required me to gain coverage for a brand/client, then yes I would call that PR. If my job was to be the publicist for someone, I would say that I work in publicity, not PR. If I was working in influencer marketing, I wouldn’t say that I was working in PR then either – it’s influencer marketing.
I think with the development of new roles in recent years such as social media management and influencer marketing, the term ‘public relations’ is becoming more and more stretched to include too many disciplines. I think it’s quite hard to define PR as one specific thing and to keep a definition short and sweet.
How would you define PR? Is it just free publicity? Is it gaining brand awareness? Or is it simply sales made from free advertorial space? Perhaps it’s neither of these or all of the above? Do you think we need a new definition for the term, or to even scrap the term altogether?