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  • Writer's pictureLive Oak Management

How Public Relations Has Been Misinterpreted

Written by Ally Sheridan, Account Executive

How Public Relations Has Been Misinterpreted

When Public Relations comes to mind, you would think a pretty basic definition emerges in one’s head. Some would say something to the extent that it is working to convey a certain message or maintain a relationship between an organization and the public. Others would say PR is working strategically to communicate a certain objective to a specific audience. However, when asked about public relations, people outside of the communications field have all different types of answers. Over the years, the public relations industry has been perceived differently and incorrectly. In fact, one of the most common questions I get asked when talking about my area of study is, “What is public relations?”.

What do PR professionals do?

Public relations professionals work strategically to shape an image for a brand and persuade audiences opinions. This work includes social media, media relations, newsletters, crisis communications, corporate communications, events, sponsorships, etc. However the broad range of areas that PR professionals work in is what leads to many misunderstanding how the industry works. One of the most common things people confuse public relations for is simply social media work. While this is somewhat correct, PR entails much more as different efforts work more effectively for specific audiences. So if a target audience for a brand uses social media as their main communication channel, more specific work on social media will be done to reach them, but that isn’t the same for all PR professionals.

PR and Spin

Another misunderstanding in public relations is that it’s looked at in a negative light. Many associate public relations with spin, or “spinning” which refers to providing information in a biased or deceitful way in order to persuade an audience in a particular way. Although PR does focus on persuasion, the main goal is to build relationships and influence others all within an honest manner.

PR vs. Publicists

Another common thing people confuse public relations for is for the role of a publicist. Although public relations and publicist jobs have lots in common, there are some crucial differences. Publicists typically work with individuals or films, while PR works with companies or businesses. Although publicists also work in many areas that PR professionals work with such as social media and media relations, the primary difference is that PR focuses on strategy and developing relationships. While maintaining a public image online is important in PR, developing marketing and advertising strategies that will convey certain images of a brand and build relationships between them and consumers is the most crucial part of PR.

Overall, I believe that the biggest misconception when it comes to PR is that it is much more than maintaining a reputation. Public relations involves research and evaluation in order to go about the right course of action. It also may be confusing to others as public relations continues to grow and change, like many other industries today. So although there will always be people who will not understand the public relations industry, it doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing. The public relations industry is extremely different from others, it’s strategic, complex, and ever-changing. Public relations can be confusing to some but that is why it is so unique.


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