What is Public Relations? Is it a means to an end, or a means to a beginning? Is it a verb, an adjective, or a noun? Can we even define it? Do we need to? The answer to these questions: YES. Public Relations is an umbrella term for a myriad of different functions, and activities, that keep a company in and out of the publics’ scrutinizing eye. Public Relations is found everywhere from small non-profits to large government agencies. Often mistaken as a universal term, “Public Relations” by law is not used as a synonym for its various sectors. For example, Press agentry is used when the goal is media exposure, promotion is used when media exposure and persuasive techniques are used, and Public affairs is used when PR activities involve the community and government.
John Grunig and Todd Hunt proposed 4 models to help further differentiate Public Relations. The first is the Press Agentry Model, the practitioner acts as a one-sided propaganda specialist, focusing more on gaining media attention for a specific purpose. The antithesis of the Press Agentry model is the Public Information model, which gives the title of journalist to the practitioner, their man concern is finding and providing facts. The Two-Way Symmetric model has the practitioner take the role of a “Scientific Persuader”. They employ research to better understand their public and tweak their messages accordingly. Finally, they created the Two-Way Symmetric model, which puts the practitioner in the role of mediator between communities, Agencies, Regulated Business, etc.
Public Relations should never be considered a job, but rather a passion for those whose creativity and knowledge transcends even the most mundane of tasks. Technicians and managers, and I use these terms loosely for one can act in the role of the other, submit writing through controlled and uncontrolled media. It’s best to think credibility vs. assurance when trying to differentiate these terms. “Uncontrolled media” is forfeiting control over all publications that are submitted by a company; however, the public tends to give publications more credibility when it has gone through a second party source. On the flip side, “controlled media” gives the company a guarantee its publications are published for a specific time and medium. Both have their advantages and allow the desired audiences to be informed and/or persuaded.