Four Misconceptions about Public Relations Profession: Guest Post by Bonnie Conklin

The public relations industry is fairly new compared to other fields of work. In fact, some people have no idea what PR professionals actually do. I feel like the PR industry has a bad image because of the media and the general public not fully understanding the industry.

Here are four common misconceptions: 

1.    Public relations is just a fancy name for party planning.For all PR practitioners this is probably the most frustrating comparison a person can make. Yes party planning is involved, but planning a party or an event is just one tactic to an overall campaign. First, public relations involves a strategy. What is the overall goal for the client? Second, extensive research is conducted to get a feel for what the client’s publics want or need. Third, objectives and tactics are formed to fulfill the goal. Finally, implementation of these tactics is performed and an evaluation of the end result tells you how successful the campaign was.  Sometimes an event isn’t even what the client wants or needs, other times it is a very successful way to generate buzz.

2.    PR practitioners cover up the truth.
Again, this is a very frustrating misconception because the fundamentals of public relations is the exact opposite. Mickie Kennedy, a PR professional says, “the public relations field is all built around telling the truth and building trust. If we lose the public’s precious trust, we lose all footing”. The goal of a public relations campaign is to make a client more transparent to its’ publics. There are many situations when PR practitioners have to choose between the easy decision and the ethical decision. Most all PR practitioners choose the ethical way. Another PR professional, James Horton says, “ultimately, transparency lies with leadership and not with the PR practitioner”. The practitioner can only help so much. There might be secrets a client is hiding that the practitioner had no idea about. In these cases all the practitioner can do is try and mend the clients reputation.

 3.    Public relations is easy.This myth has a lot to do with the media’s perception of PR. The portrayal in the media is that public relations professionals take clients out to lunch, drink, go to parties all the time, and are home by five. This is description is so wrong. If a PR professional is working at a firm they usually juggle about four to six clients. Every client demands the same amount of attention. They don’t care if you have to come in before eight or stay after five. They want what they’re paying for and the PR practitioner has to provide for each client.

 4.    Pubic Relations and Advertising are the same thing.According to The Public Relations Society of America the definition of Public Relations is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics”. And, according to Merriam Webster advertising is “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements”. There is one very big word that is included in the advertising definition and the not in the public relations definition. The word is paid. In advertising companies are paying firms to create an add campaign that will appear on television or in print. It costs money to place an ad or a commercial.  In public relations buzz is created by word of mouth. Public relations practitioners pitch to media for their story to be written about. What are some misconceptions that you commonly see in the PR industry? 

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