To put it into simple terms, public relations can defined as exactly what it sounds like: relations to the public. At first it seemed easy to understand, but it’s easier to see now that there is much more to the term. If you had to boil the definition down into a couple of words, though, it sounds like the words “public relations” seem to be a good jumping-off point. To sum it up, though, public relations is the field of making sure something is accessible and comprehensible to the public and the public eye.
A lot of public relations seems to deal with what people see, but what people usually can’t see is how what they’re seeing came to be. In other words, a lot of PR work is behind-the-scenes, working to bring about something that is very much in front of the scenes. A public image doesn’t usually have a face (or it can, in some circumstances,) but the countless people behind said non-existent face definitely do. Many, many people work, day-in and day-out to bring you, the consumer, a brand image you’ve come to love for many of your favorite ones.
The hardened, determined face of Nike that brought about social change in the form of Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem? Someone who works in PR likely made the decision to use him in their campaign. The seemingly accepting face of Dove when they launched their Real Beauty campaign way back in 2004 that criticizes the beauty industry for putting a façade over nearly everything put out into the beauty world? Yes, the public relations team over at Dove decided on that as well. Everything you see when it comes to how a brand looks or makes you feel, is due to the work of people who work in public relations. Despite their importance, many don’t seem to consider that it the work of the PR industry that is able to give us the brands that we know and love.
Difficult circumstances have arisen for all over the last half-year. Some have definitely fared better than others. As the COVID-19 death toll reaches nearly 900,000 since the outbreak in the beginning of this year, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. We must remain wearing masks in public places and refrain from gathering in large groups for the foreseeable future. This has become our new normal. However, people are nothing if not adaptable, and the PR industry is one such group of people that seems to have adapted remarkably. PR professionals have been able to get on with their lives and adapt in even these extreme circumstances, still servicing their clients and representing their brands as normal (Barrett, 2020). Of course, many of these professionals most likely have fared with some luck involved, but the field in and of itself is also just an adaptable one. As millions of people are doing nowadays, working from home has also become a new norm and the Ad & PR industries seem to be no strangers to it. People are adapting and attempting to do so as best as they possibly can, and fortunately, public relations is a field that is thriving despite people under these conditions.
As previously mentioned, public relations is a field meant to give a face to the brands we know and love. An important part of popular culture as we know it, public relations enables what pop culture looks like to us, and arguably, can be considered the backbone of making it what it is. The efforts of public relations “create, promote and amplify [people’s] pop culture experiences” (Fitch et al., 2018) so there’s no doubt that what goes on behind the scenes and what people don’t know about has unknowingly influenced generations of people.
Once again, public relations can be described simply as exactly what it says it is: relations to the public. PR is “the one function…that is positioned to step up, take a leadership position and have the greatest impact on company reputation during [a difficult] period” (O’Neal, 2020). It is a field that puts the face on the brands you know and love. It thrives despite hard times being hit. It influences people’s view of the world. The role of public relations cannot be undermined. THAT is why you should care about it.
- Barrett, S. (2020, September 04). Keep the faith as a COVID-19 summer turns into fall. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.prweek.com/article/1693585/keep-faith-covid-19-summer-turns-fall
- Fitch, K., & Motion, J. (2018). In Popular Culture and Social Change: The Hidden Work of Public Relations. Taylor & Francis.
- O’Neal, S. (2020, April 28). Council Post: Why Public Relations Is King During A Crisis. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/04/28/why-public-relations-is-king-during-a-crisis/