Lee Groeger - 04/22/2021
We applied WIRED’s popular Autocomplete Interview series to what we do every day: Public Relations. We’re giving you the answers to the top questions internet dwellers have about public relations to satisfy your curiosity.
I’m a big fan of the WIRED Autocomplete Interview series. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an online video series where public figures answer the internet’s most searched questions about themselves based on Google’s Autocomplete feature—you know, the one designed to make it faster to complete searches by guessing what you’re trying to type, as you type it.
Search queries are standardized and completely barebones (e.g., “Why Dua Lipa”, “What Questlove”, “Is Dolly Parton”), but because the questions are literally sourced from organic web searches, they are hyper-specific to each interviewee. Therefore, they result in a unique set of questions every time.
So, I thought it would fun to take a page out of WIRED’s book and apply this concept to what we do here every day: Public Relations. As to not influence the results, I cleared my browsing history. Here are the top questions internet dwellers have about public relations, and some answers to help satisfy their curiosity.
WHAT public relations…
The earliest definition takes us back just shy of a century. Edward Bernays, who is largely credited as the father of public relations, defined it as “information given to the public, persuasion directed at the public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and of publics with those of that institution. That’s a mouthful, but it’s about right.
Today, The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has modernized the definition in more succinct terms: “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” That’s true, too, albeit a little oversimplified.
So, what does public relations actually do? It utilizes the many different communication avenues across the traditional and digital landscapes to effectively interact with an organization’s or person’s constituents. Depending upon the objective, communication may be internal, external or both, potentially targeting customers, prospects, employees, partners, stakeholders, or any other persona who may be impacted by or interested in your business.
WHY public relations…
I’ll give you three reasons, but feel free to email me if you’d like 10 more.
- Builds credibility. Think about your personal habits. Where do you get your news? What resources do you find most trustworthy? My bet is it’s not a roadside billboard or a commercial. Those are certainly informative and impactful, but when it comes to actual influence and conversion, it’s more likely the answer is information you read in a newspaper, magazine or news website, saw in a social media post, or even learned from an influencer you follow. Often, it’s through the function of public relations that that information is featured in those channels. It’s effective because you—and everyone else—know those resources to be credible.
- Publicizes Achievements. Winning awards or being named a top company in your industry is great, but you know what’s even better? If the people whose business you could earn by knowing that news actually are aware of it! Personal satisfaction aside, the value in receiving such accolades is lost if it’s not promoted. What public relations does here is ensures that the right people are informed of your accomplishments tastefully and through the appropriate channels.
- Broadens Reach. Without some form of public relations support, your audience is generally limited to the people you have a direct line to. Through earned media, content marketing, and social media, public relations can amplify your brand voice and strategic messaging to reach a larger pool of targeted people.
There’s some more great insight about the value of public relations today in our recent blog post, Five Reasons Why Public Relations is Critical in 2021.
HOW public relations…
For the sake of pragmatism, let’s look at public relations through the lens of media relations. PR professionals develop and nurture lasting relationships with many members of the media across all touchpoints—print, web, television, radio, podcasts—to ensure an open path for dialogue. When they need a resource or information, they know they can rely on us to provide it. Likewise, when we have client news that’s relevant to them, they are open to receiving it. We also monitor the media landscape to keep our finger on the pulse of not only what’s being covered, but how the dynamic media landscape is evolving.
Mechanically speaking, here’s what generally what happens. A PR professional gathers all the information available on a given topic, initiative, product, event or what have you. We then craft materials that effectively and appropriately explain that information in a clear and informative manner. Sometimes, this is done with a press release, media alert or other collateral, and sometimes not. But good PR professionals always support information with a well-crafted pitch designed specifically for each intended recipient. Often, a good pitch—occasionally made via phone or social media, but most often via email—is all it takes.
From there, we deliver whatever information that media contact requires to transform the story into a media placement. This includes providing background information, images, video footage, samples, and often serving as liaison between media and client to facilitate interviews, tutorials, etc. Once all information has been exchanged, it’s in the hands of the media. It is incredibly rare, though not unheard of, to get a sneak peek of a finished piece before it’s published. Otherwise, we secure a clip of the coverage once it’s live, review it, and share and discuss with our clients. We also create a strategy to promote it via PR, social media, website, email, and other marketing channels.
CAN public relations…
This feels like an opportunity for a recap. Public relations helps companies in myriad ways, including but not limited to the following:
- Keeps your constituents informed and engaged
- Increases brand visibility
- Builds credibility
- Promotes your achievements
- Broadens your audience
IS public relations…
I love this question! TO be fair, I love all questions related to grammar, punctuation, spelling, syntax…you get it. There really isn’t a straight answer here. If you are referencing the term in a formal capacity, such as an academic degree (“Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations”) or the name of a company (“3E Public Relations”), for example, it should be capitalized. If you are referring to the industry generally (“I work in the field of public relations.”), it doesn’t need to be. In any informal writing, it’s really up to the creator’s stylistic preference.
Well, that was fun. Thanks to all the Googlers out there for creating a roadmap for this experiment. Hopefully, I’ve cleared up some areas of curiosity or confusion for you, but I’m happy to answer any lingering questions.
Feel free to email me about this topic or any others related to your public relations, social media, and content needs (or just to tell me what your favorite Wired Autocomplete Interview is).