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What is Public Relations?

Debunking the Myths: Common misconceptions of public relations

Public relations is one of the most misunderstood professions with the lines between PR, marketing, advertising, and more becoming increasingly blurred. When public relations is misunderstood, it is easy to under appreciate and undervalue its service as an important resource to your business. To debunk PR myths and correct the common misconceptions associated with them, it is important to answer these questions: “What is public relations and what is public relations not?”

What is Public Relations?

Through news or press, public relations serves as a bridge between the organizations that it supports and their target audiences by shaping and sustaining their image in the eyes of the public. By crafting press releases, telling compelling news stories and securing coverage in reputable media outlets, public relations builds a credible rapport, highlights positive attributes and cultivates meaningful relationships for the companies it represents.

What is Public Relations NOT?

Advertising. Advertising is primarily concerned with selling more of a product by using paid media – a method to pat yourself on the back and announce to everyone else why you’re doing it. Public relations, on the other hand, offers a more authentic way to send your message to your target audiences. It allows for an opportunity to receive endorsements from a third party, making the news you share more believable.

Marketing. While public relations and marketing go hand in hand and the integration of the two is inevitable, public relations is not merely a subset of marketing like it is often assumed. PR creates awareness and generates interest similar to marketing, but generally has a different target audience, offers a varying toolkit and has a separate and distinct goal.  

Propaganda. Your PR team’s job is to build a credible and sustainable reputation, which means it thrives on accurate and reliable information. Because propaganda has a bad rap for often being biased and misleading in nature, it diminishes the trustworthiness of a brand, taking away from any progress public relations efforts have previously made.

Spin. Similar to the idea of propaganda, the PR industry is too commonly referred to as the “spindustry” – a practice that implies the PR world “spins” the news to manipulate the public into changing their views. PR understands that a company’s reputation is one of its biggest assets, so to prevent the risk of damaging it by being deceptive, it centers its messages around truth.

Crisis Management. While yes, your PR team should be prepared to handle unexpected crises that may arise, crisis communication is only a sub-specialty of PR. If you think your business needs PR simply to ‘fix’ problems, think again. In typical PR practice, crisis management is the very last resort or used on an as-needed basis.

With so many enhancements in the public relations industry, it is easy to lose sight of what public relations is. If you have any questions on what is public relations or would like to see examples of strategic public relations work, feel free to contact Serendipit Consulting at 602.283.5209 or visit us online at

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