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Public Relations Meaning (What Is PR?)

Everything to know about PR.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

What is PR? Explore pub­lic rela­tions mean­ing here.

I’ve writ­ten this art­icle to give you an over­view of pub­lic rela­tions and how best to under­stand all the dif­fer­ent parts of the pro­fes­sion and to answer your ques­tions about PR.

Who am I? My name’s Jerry, and I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations and a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics from Mid Sweden University. I’ve sup­por­ted 100+ brands stra­tegic­ally and tac­tic­ally for 19+ years now.

Here we go:

Public Relations Meaning — What Is PR?

Public Relations Meaning - What Is PR - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Public rela­tions mean­ing — what is PR?
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Public Relations Meaning (What Is PR?)

The single biggest prob­lem in com­mu­nic­a­tion is the illu­sion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

Public Relations (abbre­vi­ated “PR”) is the stra­tegic and tac­tic­al use of com­mu­nic­a­tion to devel­op and main­tain pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

PR is some­times referred to as “Strategic Communications” or simply “Communications.” Public rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als some­times jok­ingly say that PR also stands for “Perception Management” or “Personal Relationships.”

PR pro­fes­sion­als have vari­ous spe­cial­isa­tions, includ­ing cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tions, investor rela­tions (IR), media rela­tions, digit­al PR, pub­lic affairs (PA), lob­by­ing, intern­al com­mu­nic­a­tions (IC), crisis com­mu­nic­a­tions, mar­ket­ing PR, and industry PR (B2B).

The PESO mod­el explains the cent­ral dif­fer­ence between marketing/​advertising and communications/​PR:

Marketing/​Advertising

  • Paid Media: Advertising, pro­mo­tions, etc.

Communications/​PR

  • Earned Media: Publicity, word-of-mouth, etc.
  • Shared Media: Online buzz, social shares, etc. 
  • Owned Media: Web pages, social accounts, etc.

Learn more: Public Relations Meaning — What Is PR?

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What Public Relations Does

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The stake­hold­er mod­el in pub­lic relations.
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What Public Relations Does

Public rela­tions and mar­ket­ing both use rela­tion­ship-build­ing tech­niques, but their mis­sions and philo­sophies are fun­da­ment­ally dif­fer­ent.”
Source: Public Relations Review 1Broom, G., Lauzen, M., & Tucker, K. (1991). Public rela­tions and mar­ket­ing: Dividing the con­cep­tu­al domain and oper­a­tion­al turf. Public Relations Review, 17, 219 – 225. … Continue read­ing

Suppose you’re run­ning a busi­ness and wish to be top-of-mind and sell more products and ser­vices. The go-to option is to double down on mar­ket­ing to run ad cam­paigns, invest in SEM, or get into paid col­lab­or­a­tions with influencers.

To get star­ted, you devel­op a cre­at­ive concept and a mar­ket­ing strategy, which you pair up with copy­writ­ing and art dir­ec­tion to cre­ate your assets. After care­ful plan­ning, you place your media budget with third-party pub­lish­ers who can expose your mes­saging to poten­tial customers.

That’s mar­ket­ing!

However, there are lots of instances where the mar­ket­ing tool­box falls short:

Media Relations

(Sometimes referred to as “Press Office.”)

Organizations’ media rela­tions activ­it­ies can influ­ence media con­tent and opin­ions, but suc­cess depends on more than just dis­trib­ut­ing news releases.”
Source: Public Relations Review 2Turk, J. (1985). Information sub­sidies and influ­ence. Public Relations Review, 11, 10 – 25. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​5​)​8​0​078 – 3

Some third-party pub­lish­ers don’t accept pay­ment because their live­li­hood depends on objectiv­ity. Journalists (and influ­en­cers with journ­al­ist­ic ambi­tions) fall into this cat­egory. Their unbiased approach makes them highly influential.

Obviously, you can­not send your mar­ket­ing assets to a journ­al­ist. They will refer you to their mar­ket­ing depart­ment and ask you to pay for an ad!

However, a PR pro­fes­sion­al under­stands how to cre­ate mater­i­al that a journ­al­ist (or an ambi­tious influ­en­cer) will want to fea­ture to their audi­ence.

Learn more: Media Relations

Corporate Communications

(Sometimes used inter­change­ably with “Communications” and “Inhouse PR” as a gen­er­al term.)

Corporate com­mu­nic­a­tion is a new [editor’s note: pub­lished in 1996] and grow­ing dis­cip­line that focuses on com­mu­nic­a­tion with­in organ­iz­a­tions, relat­ing to man­age­ment, busi­ness, and organ­iz­a­tion­al aspects.”
Source: Management Communication Quarterly 3Argenti, P. (1996). Corporate Communication as a Discipline. Management Communication Quarterly, 10, 73 – 97. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​7​7​/​0​8​9​3​3​1​8​9​9​6​0​1​0​0​0​1​005

What if an organ­isa­tion depends not just on wheth­er people buy its products or ser­vices but also on what people think of your organ­isa­tion and how it con­ducts its busi­ness? What if people want to dis­cuss crit­ic­al top­ics with the organisation?

Unfortunately, pro­mot­ing your products and ser­vices to these people won’t cut it. However, pub­lic rela­tions has pro­fes­sion­al know-how in this area.

Learn more: Corporate Communications

Investor Relations (IR)

Investor rela­tions officers sig­ni­fic­antly influ­ence cor­por­ate dis­clos­ures and play a cru­cial role in private com­mu­nic­a­tion between IROs, ana­lysts, and investors.”
Source: Journal of Accounting and Economics 4Brown, L., Call, A., Clement, M., & Sharp, N. (2019). Managing the nar­rat­ive: Investor rela­tions officers and cor­por­ate dis­clos­ure✰. Journal of Accounting and Economics. … Continue read­ing

In some organ­isa­tions, espe­cially large ones, there are vari­ous fin­an­cial stake­hold­ers. Shareholders, investors, fin­an­cial insti­tu­tions, etc. You can­not “do mar­ket­ing” towards these groups; their inform­a­tion­al needs dif­fer from those of poten­tial consumers. 

But with­in pub­lic rela­tions, we under­stand how to engage in two-way communication.

Learn more: Investor Relations (IR)

Digital PR

(Sometimes referred to as “Digital Communications,” “Online PR,” or “Online Communications.”)

Online pub­lic rela­tions can enhance vis­ib­il­ity and build rela­tion­ships with the pub­lic, pro­mot­ing organ­iz­a­tions and products through dia­lo­gic com­mu­nic­a­tion.”
Source: Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 5Petrovici, M. (2014). E‑Public Relations: Impact and Efficiency. A Case Study. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 141, 79 – 84. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​S​B​S​P​R​O​.​2​0​1​4​.​0​5​.​015

Not all online traffic is paid for by ads. People search organ­ic­ally for inform­a­tion, know­ledge, inspir­a­tion, enter­tain­ment, etc. Some people even wish to be more than just cus­tom­ers — they want to be fans, fol­low­ers, and subscribers! 

And yes, pub­lic rela­tions is equipped to cater to the inform­a­tion­al needs of fin­an­cial stakeholders.

Learn more: Digital PR

Public Affairs (PA)

Integrating cor­por­ate plan­ning and pub­lic affairs per­spect­ives is cru­cial for organ­iz­a­tions to effect­ively respond to envir­on­ment­al change and adapt to social and polit­ic­al tur­bu­lence.”
Source: Long Range Planning 6Post, J., Murray, E., Dickie, R., & Mahon, J. (1982). The pub­lic affairs func­tion in American cor­por­a­tions: Development and rela­tions with cor­por­ate plan­ning. Long Range Planning, 15, 12 – 21. … Continue read­ing

For some organ­isa­tions, it mat­ters what the gen­er­al pub­lic thinks about cer­tain issues. For an elec­tric car man­u­fac­turer, it mat­ters what people think of the elec­tri­fic­a­tion of soci­ety. Because in a demo­cracy, pub­lic opin­ion will ulti­mately shape pub­lic policy.

In pub­lic rela­tions, we have the skill set to nav­ig­ate and man­age pub­lic per­cep­tions and shape opin­ions long-term. While advert­ising can sup­port such endeav­ours, the driv­ing force is usu­ally pub­lic relations.

Learn more: Public Affairs (PA)

Lobbying

Lobbying can be viewed as a form of legis­lat­ive sub­sidy, provid­ing policy inform­a­tion, polit­ic­al intel­li­gence, and legis­lat­ive labor to stra­tegic­ally selec­ted legis­lat­ors, assist­ing nat­ur­al allies in achiev­ing their object­ives.”
Source: American Political Science Review 7Hall, R., & Deardorff, A. (2006). Lobbying as Legislative Subsidy. American Political Science Review, 100, 69 – 84. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​7​/​S​0​0​0​3​0​5​5​4​0​6​0​6​2​010

At times, it’s a good idea to present your organ­isa­tion’s ideas dir­ectly to those in charge of mak­ing the decisions, like politi­cians, legis­lat­ors, ana­lysts, top­ic experts, etc. And these groups are rarely con­vinced by mar­ket­ing messages.

Learn more: Lobbying

Internal Communications (IC)

Strengthening intern­al com­mu­nic­a­tion through vari­ous meth­ods, includ­ing face-to-face com­mu­nic­a­tion, can improve employ­ee engage­ment and build trust between man­age­ment and employ­ees.”
Source: International Journal of Business Communication 8Mishra, K., Boynton, L., & Mishra, A. (2014). Driving Employee Engagement. International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 183 – 202. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​7​7​/​2​3​2​9​4​8​8​4​1​4​5​2​5​399

Most organ­isa­tions have employ­ees. Their opin­ions and atti­tudes towards the employ­er often decide wheth­er the organ­isa­tion will rise or fall. Aiming mar­ket­ing cam­paigns at them rarely resolves any issues. 

In pub­lic rela­tions, we have a long and proud tra­di­tion of improv­ing all types of com­mu­nic­a­tion with­in an organ­isa­tion. (It’s also a major field of aca­dem­ic research!)

Learn more: Internal Communications (IC)

Crisis Communications

(Sometimes referred to as “Crisis Management.”)

Effective crisis com­mu­nic­a­tion strategies, tim­ing, and situ­ation­al factors can guide man­agers in achiev­ing desired out­comes and enhan­cing cor­por­ate repu­ta­tion dur­ing crises.”
Source: Business Horizons 9Coombs, W. (2015). The value of com­mu­nic­a­tion dur­ing a crisis: Insights from stra­tegic com­mu­nic­a­tion research. Business Horizons, 58, 141 – 148. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​B​U​S​H​O​R​.​2​0​1​4​.​1​0​.​003

Sometimes, things go wrong. In such situ­ations, paus­ing all mar­ket­ing cam­paigns is often a good idea. No one wants to see an ad for your busi­ness when people suf­fer or have got­ten hurt. 

We have developed a tried-and-tested tool­box in pub­lic rela­tions to assist organ­isa­tions in deal­ing with extremely chal­len­ging scenarios.

Learn more: Crisis Communications

Marketing PR

(Sometimes referred to as “Marketing Communications.”)

Integrating mar­ket­ing com­mu­nic­a­tions across tra­di­tion­al and new media can improve the effect­ive­ness and effi­ciency of mar­ket­ing pro­grams.”
Source: Journal of Marketing 10Batra, R., & Keller, K. (2016). Integrating Marketing Communications: New Findings, New Lessons, and New Ideas. Journal of Marketing, 80, 122 – 145. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​5​0​9​/​j​m​.​1​5​.​0​419

Journalists and influ­en­cers are some­times inter­ested in con­sumer offer­ings, too. Not only are poten­tial cus­tom­ers inter­ested in learn­ing about new products or ser­vices — journ­al­ists might be curi­ous, too. This often hap­pens when there are big launches or sig­ni­fic­ant tech­no­lo­gic­al advancements. 

This is where mar­ket­ing and pub­lic rela­tions “cross swords.” While mar­ket­ing will use paid cam­paigns to push products or ser­vices, pub­lic rela­tions will pitch those products or ser­vices to journ­al­ists (and influ­en­cers with journ­al­ist­ic ambitions).

Learn more: Marketing PR

Industry PR (B2B)

(Sometimes referred to as “B2B PR,” “B2B Communications,” or with more spe­cificity, like “Tech PR,” “Telecom PR”, “Medical PR,” etc.) 

Contemporary pub­lic rela­tions for B2B involves 7 dis­tinct types of fram­ing: situ­ations, attrib­utes, choices, actions, issues, respons­ib­il­ity, and news.”
Source: Journal of Public Relations Research 11Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven Models of Framing: Implications for Public Relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 11, 205 – 242. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​2​0​7​/​S​1​5​3​2​7​5​4​X​J​P​R​R​1​1​0​3​_02

In many indus­tries, organ­isa­tions sell products and ser­vices to oth­er com­pan­ies. Marketing can be import­ant, espe­cially if there are thou­sands of poten­tial cus­tom­ers. However, many niches are small and depend­ent on per­son­al relationships.

Also, many organ­isa­tions depend on func­tion­al rela­tion­ships with vendors, dis­trib­ut­ors, part­ners, sup­pli­ers, etc. Public rela­tions is the way to com­mu­nic­ate with these organisations.

Learn more: Industry PR (B2B)


All of the above types of pub­lic rela­tions can be found in the stake­hold­er mod­el.

As you can see, a lot of com­mu­nic­a­tion has to occur for most organ­isa­tions — besides mar­ket­ing. Marketing is a great tool, but pub­lic rela­tions is some­times the only way.

And, finally:

Why do most people know what mar­ket­ing does — when the same thing can­not be said for pub­lic relations?

Marketing is big money. Marketing gen­er­ates sales dir­ectly, which makes it a pri­or­ity for many organ­isa­tions. While media place­ments are expens­ive and require budgets expo­nen­tially lar­ger than any budgets spent on com­mu­nic­a­tions, advert­ising expos­ure is also guaranteed.

Public rela­tions budgets and resources are often less well-defined and less accep­ted than mar­ket­ing budgets and resources, but both dis­cip­lines con­trib­ute to the bot­tom line.”
Source: Public Relations for Marketing Professionals 12Haywood, R. (1998). Public rela­tions budget and resources. Public Relations for Marketing Professionals, 83 – 96. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 1‑349 – 14365-8_5

Learn more: What Public Relations Does

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Public Relations Definition

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The Public Relations Definition

Someone once tried to count the num­ber of actu­al defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions, but they allegedly gave up after find­ing over 500+ dif­fer­ent ver­sions. 13Morris, T., & Goldsworthy, S. (2008). From PR to pro­pa­ganda. 97 – 111. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 0‑230 – 59485-2_7

Amongst so many defin­i­tions of Public Relations, here’s the defin­i­tion that I find to be most useful:

Public Relations Definition

Public Relations (PR) = the stra­tegic and tac­tic­al use of com­mu­nic­a­tion to devel­op and main­tain pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and publics.

Please note:

Stakeholders in PR = incentiv­ised rep­res­ent­at­ives with vari­ous interests in the organisation.

Influencers in PR = inde­pend­ent gate­keep­ers with audi­ences of import­ance to the organisation.

Publics in PR = situ­ation­al groups with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­at­ive beha­viours affect­ing the organisation.

Learn more: Public Relations Definition

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Stakeholders in Public Relations

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The stake­hold­er mod­el in pub­lic relations.
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The Stakeholders in Public Relations

In pub­lic rela­tions (PR), we often dis­cuss stake­hold­ers. And our PR spe­cial­isa­tions are named based on which PR stake­hold­er group we’re respons­ible for managing. 

In a cor­por­a­tion, a stake­hold­er is a mem­ber of ‘groups without whose sup­port the organ­isa­tion would cease to exist’, as defined in the first usage of the word in a 1963 intern­al memor­andum at the Stanford Research Institute. The the­ory was later developed and cham­pioned by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide accept­ance in busi­ness prac­tice and in the­or­ising relat­ing to stra­tegic man­age­ment, cor­por­ate gov­ernance, busi­ness pur­pose and cor­por­ate social respons­ib­il­ity (CSR).”
Source: Wikipedia 14Stakeholder (cor­por­ate). (2023, October 27). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​t​a​k​e​h​o​l​d​e​r​_​(​c​o​r​p​o​r​ate)

The PR Stakeholder Model

  • Corporate Communications = External and intern­al pub­lics, busi­ness journ­al­ists, reg­u­lat­ory insti­tu­tions, part­ners, sup­pli­ers, vendors, etc.
  • Investor Relations (IR) = Shareholders, fin­an­cial mar­kets, mar­ket ana­lysts, fin­an­cial insti­tu­tions, trade journ­al­ists etc.
  • Media Relations = Journalists, edit­ors, influ­en­cers, etc.
  • Digital PR = Inbound web traffic, brand com­munit­ies, sub­scribers, fans, fol­low­ers, influ­en­cers, social net­works, etc.
  • Public Affairs (PA) = Voters, polit­ic­al journ­al­ists, polit­ic­al ana­lysts, colum­nists, interest groups, etc.
  • Lobbying = Politicians, legis­lat­ors, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, com­mit­tees, influ­en­cers, etc.
  • Internal Communications = Coworkers, poten­tial recruits, etc.
  • Crisis Communications = Crisis vic­tims, wor­ried pub­lics, the gen­er­al pub­lic, cowork­ers, journ­al­ists, influ­en­cers, cus­tom­ers, share­hold­ers, etc.
  • Marketing PR = Potential cus­tom­ers, exist­ing cus­tom­ers, trade journ­al­ists, mem­bers, affil­i­ates, etc.
  • Industry PR (B2B) = B2B cli­ents, B2B pro­spects, trade journ­al­ists, trade organ­isa­tions, niche influ­en­cers, etc.

Developing and main­tain­ing rela­tion­ships with vari­ous stake­hold­ers is a sig­ni­fic­ant chal­lenge for PR pro­fes­sion­als since their inform­a­tion needs are typ­ic­ally very dif­fer­ent. 15A wide­spread mis­con­cep­tion is that the PR func­tion only deals with journ­al­ists (Media Relations) and product pro­mo­tion (Marketing PR). However, such work rep­res­ents only a tiny frac­tion of all the … Continue read­ing

Public rela­tions dis­tin­guishes itself from mar­ket­ing by focus­ing on the stake­hold­er-organ­iz­a­tion rela­tion­ship, which com­prises mutu­al ori­ent­a­tion around a com­mon interest point and a mul­ti­pli­city of stakes.”
Source: Public Relations Review 16Smith, B. (2012). Public rela­tions iden­tity and the stake­hold­er – organ­iz­a­tion rela­tion­ship: A revised the­or­et­ic­al pos­i­tion for pub­lic rela­tions schol­ar­ship. Public Relations Review, 38, 838 – 845. … Continue read­ing

Learn more: Stakeholders in Public Relations

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Influencers in Public Relations

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Influencers in pub­lic relations.
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The Influencers in Public Relations

In PR, influ­en­cers are indi­vidu­als who have man­aged to grow a sub­stan­tial audi­ence, which has the poten­tial to affect a spe­cif­ic organ­isa­tion either pos­it­ively or negatively.

Influencers in pub­lic rela­tions are emer­ging stake­hold­ers who gen­er­ate a state of opin­ion in the digit­al com­munity that sur­passes tra­di­tion­al pub­lic opin­ion.”
Source: The Role of Prosumers in the Interactive and Digital Processes of Public Relations 17Polo, M. (2020). The Role of Prosumers in the Interactive and Digital Processes of Public Relations. 161 – 174. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​4​0​1​8​/​978 – 1‑7998 – 3119‑8.ch012

Establishing and main­tain­ing good rela­tion­ships with stra­tegic­ally chosen influ­en­cers for the organ­isa­tion is often crit­ic­ally important.

I recom­mend using the fol­low­ing tiers and nam­ing con­ven­tions for cat­egor­ising dif­fer­ent types of influencers:

  • Nano influ­en­cer. Nano influ­en­cers are indi­vidu­als with a small yet engaged fol­low­ing, typ­ic­ally between 1,000 and 10,000 fol­low­ers (but this will vary based on both the plat­form and the niche), often focus­ing on niche interests and hav­ing a sol­id per­son­al con­nec­tion with their audience.
  • Micro influ­en­cer. Micro influ­en­cers have a mod­er­ately sized audi­ence, ran­ging from 10,000 to 50,000 fol­low­ers (but this will vary based on the plat­form and the niche). They are known for their expert­ise in spe­cif­ic fields or indus­tries, lead­ing to high­er engage­ment rates and a loy­al fanbase.
  • Macro influ­en­cer. Macro influ­en­cers pos­sess a more sig­ni­fic­ant fol­low­ing, usu­ally between 50,000 and 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers (but this will vary based on the plat­form and the niche). They have estab­lished them­selves as influ­en­tial fig­ures in their respect­ive fields, often col­lab­or­at­ing with brands for pro­mo­tions and partnerships.
  • Mega influ­en­cer. Mega influ­en­cers are high-pro­file indi­vidu­als with over 1 mil­lion fol­low­ers (but this will vary based on the plat­form and the niche), often includ­ing celebrit­ies and pub­lic fig­ures, who have a massive reach and can shape trends and drive con­sumer beha­viour on a large scale.

Learn more: The Influencers in Public Relations

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Publics in Public Relations

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The pub­lics in pub­lic relations.
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The Publics in Public Relations

Here’s how to define pub­lics in pub­lic relations:

Publics in PR = a psy­cho­graph­ic seg­ment (who) with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­a­tion beha­viours (how) formed around a spe­cif­ic issue (why).

Please note:

Psychographic seg­ment = sim­il­ar­it­ies in cog­nit­ive driv­ing factors such as reas­on­ing, motiv­a­tions, atti­tudes, etc.

Communication beha­viours = how the pub­lic’s opin­ion is expressed (choice of mes­sage, rhet­or­ic­al fram­ing, and medi­um type).

Specific issue = determ­ined situ­ation­ally by a spe­cif­ic social object, often high on the agenda in news media or social media.

Learn more: The Publics in Public Relations

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Five Types of Publics

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Five types of publics.
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Kirk Hallahan’s Five Types of Publics

There are plenty of inact­ive pub­lics around us in soci­ety, just “wait­ing” for extern­al situ­ations to activ­ate them, bring­ing them togeth­er in coöper­at­ive, com­mu­nic­at­ive behaviours.

However, PR tends to focus on the already activ­ated publics:

By focus­ing on act­iv­ism and its con­sequences, recent pub­lic rela­tions the­ory has largely ignored inact­ive pub­lics, that is, stake­hold­er groups that demon­strate low levels of know­ledge and involve­ment in the organ­isa­tion or its products, ser­vices, can­did­ates, or causes, but are import­ant to an organ­isa­tion.”
Source: Public Relations Review 18Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive pub­lics: The for­got­ten pub­lics in pub­lic rela­tions. Public Relations Review, 26(4), 499 – 515. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​0​0​)​0​0​061 – 8

Kirk Hallahan, Professor Emeritus, Journalism and Media Communication, Colorado State University, pro­poses five types of pub­lics based on their know­ledge and involve­ment: 19Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive pub­lics: The for­got­ten pub­lics in pub­lic rela­tions. Public Relations Review, 26(4), 499 – 515. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​0​0​)​0​0​061 – 8

  • Aware Publics
  • Active Publics
  • Inactive Publics
  • Aroused Publics
  • Non-Publics

Hallahan sug­gests a mod­el based on know­ledge and involvement:

As an organ­isa­tion tar­geted by act­iv­ists, what would be the best issue response? Hallahan pro­poses four prin­cip­al response strategies: 20Hallahan, K. (2009, November 19). The Dynamics of Issues Activation and Response: An Issues Processes Model. Journal of Public Relations Research. … Continue read­ing

  • Active pub­lics: Negotiation.
  • Aroused pub­lics: Intervention.
  • Aware pub­lics: Education.
  • Inactive pub­lics: Prevention.

Learn more: Kirk Hallahan’s Five Types of Publics

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Public Relations Objectives

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Public Relations Objectives

Public rela­tions (PR) plays a cru­cial role in shap­ing pub­lic opin­ion by stra­tegic­ally man­aging the spread of inform­a­tion between an organ­isa­tion and stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

PR pro­fes­sion­als con­trol the nar­rat­ive, mit­ig­ate dam­age, and restore pub­lic con­fid­ence dur­ing a crisis. Through con­sist­ent and effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion, PR can sway pub­lic opin­ion in favour of the organ­isa­tion, enhan­cing its repu­ta­tion and stand­ing in the community.

Building trust and cred­ib­il­ity is anoth­er cru­cial object­ive of pub­lic rela­tions. In an era where con­sumers are increas­ingly scep­tic­al of advert­ising and cor­por­ate speak, PR offers a more authen­t­ic and cred­ible way to com­mu­nic­ate with the public. 

PR pro­fes­sion­als strive to build and main­tain a pos­it­ive image for their organ­isa­tions by pro­mot­ing trans­par­ency, demon­strat­ing social respons­ib­il­ity, and enga­ging in open dia­logue with stake­hold­ers. They also work to high­light the organisation’s suc­cesses and achieve­ments, fur­ther enhan­cing its credibility. 

By fos­ter­ing sol­id rela­tion­ships with the media, PR can ensure that the organisation’s story is told fairly and accur­ately. Over time, these efforts can build a strong found­a­tion of trust and cred­ib­il­ity, which is invalu­able in today’s com­pet­it­ive busi­ness environment.

Public rela­tions is a young aca­dem­ic field with poten­tial to inform vari­ous areas of com­mu­nic­a­tion and offer tools like issues man­age­ment for vari­ous applied com­mu­nic­a­tion fields.“
Source: Journal of Communication 21Botan, C., & Taylor, M. (2004). Public rela­tions: State of the field. Journal of Communication, 54, 645 – 661. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​460 – 2466.2004.TB02649.X

Examples of Public Relations Objectives

Here are a few examples of pub­lic rela­tions objectives:

  • Increase aware­ness via earned, shared and owned channels.
  • Educate the mar­ket and modi­fy perceptions.
  • Increase word-of-mouth by cre­at­ing social objects.
  • Increase pos­it­ive pub­li­city and decrease neg­at­ive publicity.
  • Coach and pre­pare cor­por­ate spokespeople.
  • Manage insider threats.
  • Introduce new products or services.
  • Manage inquir­ies from journ­al­ists and analysts.
  • Keep stake­hold­ers well-informed.
  • Strategic work (pos­i­tion­ing, per­cep­tion man­age­ment etc.)
  • Establish and devel­op mutu­al rela­tion­ships with key publics.
  • Monitor word-of-mouth and press coverage.
  • Improve intern­al communications.
  • Prevent and man­age crises.
  • Manage issues before they escal­ate and become real problems.
  • Influence pub­lic opin­ion and legis­lat­ive processes.
  • Develop the PR strategy and keep the PR plan updated.
  • Gather action­able insights from data ana­lys­is and focus groups.
  • Produce and pub­lish inform­a­tion­al and edu­ca­tion­al content.

Learn more: Public Relations Objectives

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Approaches To Public Relations

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Three approaches to pub­lic relations.
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Approaches To Public Relations

There are three schol­arly approaches to pub­lic rela­tions (PR):

  • The Excellence Approach
  • The Rhetorical Approach
  • The Critical Approach

The Excellence Approach. A busi­ness-ori­ented approach focused on object­ives and cor­por­ate value cre­ation. The under­ly­ing motiv­a­tion behind the the­ory was that PR was mostly a vari­ety of tac­tic­al tools that des­per­ately needed a man­age­ment the­ory to work well in a soph­ist­ic­ated organisation.

Notable men­tions: James E. Grunig, Larissa A. Grunig

The Rhetorical Approach. A clas­sic­al approach that stems from ideas dat­ing back to ancient Greece. It’s a psy­cho­lo­gic­al the­ory of how com­mu­nic­a­tion struc­tures human cul­ture by shap­ing human minds. An absence of mor­al judg­ment char­ac­ter­ises the rhet­or­ic­al approach and is utilitarian.

Notable men­tions: Edward Bernays, The Toronto School of Communication Theory, Robert Heath

The Critical Approach. A crit­ic­al approach deeply rooted in the­or­ies around soci­et­al power dynam­ics. Power is seen as a means to exert dom­in­ance, manip­u­la­tion, and oppres­sion. The crit­ic­al approach bor­rows many ideas from the rhet­or­ic­al approach by pla­cing them in mor­al frameworks.

Notable men­tions: Walter Lippmann, Noam Chomsky

Read also: 3 PR Approaches: Excellence, Rhetorical, and Critical

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Four Models of Public Relations

Four Models of Public Relations - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The four mod­els of pub­lic relations.
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The Four Models of Public Relations

In the Excellence study, James Grunig and Todd Hunt (1984) developed the most widely cited PR mod­el in aca­dem­ic circles. It’s not one, but rather four mod­els in sequence:

PR Model 1: Press Agentry Model. The organ­isa­tion uses media manip­u­la­tion to shape the nar­rat­ive deceptively.

PR Model 2: Public Information Model. The organ­isa­tion is prac­tising one-way com­mu­nic­a­tion to dis­sem­in­ate inform­a­tion with little or no feed­back from recipients.

PR Model 3: Two-Way Asymmetrical Model. The organ­isa­tion engages in two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion to per­suade and estab­lish power structures. 

PR Model 4: Two-Way Symmetrical Model. The organ­isa­tion engages in two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion to find com­mon ground and mutu­al benefits.

The study of rela­tion­ships with­in pub­lic rela­tions has become increas­ingly import­ant, with the Grunigs identi­fy­ing test­able vari­ables to meas­ure the qual­ity of organ­iz­a­tion­al rela­tion­ships.”
Source: Journal of Professional Communication 22Grunig, J. (2011). Public rela­tions excel­lence 2010. Journal of Professional Communication, 1. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​5​1​7​3​/​J​P​C​.​V​1​I​1​.85

The res­ult? The research­ers con­cluded that the two-way sym­met­ric­al mod­el is the most effect­ive way to prac­tice pub­lic relations.

The four mod­els of pub­lic rela­tions as a frame­work can be con­sidered a corner­stone of the Excellence Approach. 23Silfwer, J. (2022, November 6). 3 PR Approaches: Excellence, Rhetorical, and Critical. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​r​-​a​p​p​r​o​a​c​h​es/

Learn more: The Four Models of Public Relations

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Public Relations vs Journalism

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To spin or not to spin. (Photo: Jerry Silfwer)
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Public Relations vs Journalism

PR pro­fes­sion­als and journ­al­ists share many prac­tic­al skill sets. Still, pub­lic rela­tions and journ­al­ism are fun­da­ment­ally different:

Public Relations is the effort to sub­ject­ively advoc­ate agen­das on spe­cial interests’ behalf.

A fun­da­ment­al cri­tique against pub­lic rela­tions is that advocacy is an afflu­ent priv­ilege that manip­u­lates the truth.

Journalism is the effort to object­ively report the news on the pub­lic interest’s behalf.

A fun­da­ment­al cri­tique against journ­al­ism is that objectiv­ity is unreal­ist­ic and the pub­lic interest heterogeneous.

But even if both pub­lic rela­tions and journ­al­ism fail to live up to their ideal states at all times, both prac­tices play vital roles in uphold­ing a bal­anced and stable democracy.

Learn more: Public Relations vs Journalism

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How To Measure Public Relations

How to Measure Public Relations - Doctor Spin
How to meas­ure pub­lic relations.
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How To Measure Public Relations

How do you meas­ure pub­lic rela­tions (PR)? There are a few things to think about to meas­ure atti­tudes cor­rectly. 24Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. … Continue read­ing

An atti­tude meas­ure­ment should meet the fol­low­ing criteria:

  • Valid
  • Reliable
  • Simple to Administer, Explain, and Understand
  • Replicable

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment approaches:

  • Self-Reporting
  • Reports of Others
  • Internal Reporting (Sociometric Reporting)
  • Records

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment methods:

  • Questionnaires and Rating Scales
  • Interviews
  • Reports (Logs, Journals, Diaries etc.)
  • Observations

I’m a big fan of using ques­tion­naires and stand­ard­ised inter­views for PR measurements:

Validity. Attitudes are psy­cho­lo­gic­al, so I strive to cla­ri­fy what I want to meas­ure, noth­ing more, noth­ing less. And I nev­er add any unne­ces­sary complexity.

Reliability. People exper­i­ence the world dif­fer­ently. But even if atti­tude meas­ure­ments aren’t exact, their use­ful­ness for PR more than makes up for it.

Learn more: How To Measure Public Relations

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The PESO Model in Public Relations

PESO Model - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
The PESO mod­el in pub­lic relations.
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The PESO Model

The PESO mod­el divides the media land­scape into four dif­fer­ent media chan­nel types: 

  • Paid chan­nels include advert­ising, spon­sor­ships, ambas­sad­or col­lab­or­a­tions etc.
  • Earned chan­nels include news art­icles, influ­en­cer endorse­ments, word-of-mouth etc.
  • Shared chan­nels include social media brand posts, accounts, SERP vis­ib­il­ity etc.
  • Owned chan­nels include news­let­ters, web­sites, pub­lic­a­tions for intern­al or extern­al use etc.

Don Bartholomew, vice pres­id­ent of digit­al research at Fleishman Hillard, presen­ted a ver­sion of the PESO mod­el in 2010. According to PR blog­ger and PR meas­ure­ment expert Heather Yaxley, this is likely to be the earli­est men­tion of the model:

Public Relations Meaning | The PR Profession | Doctor Spin
The PESO mod­el. Source: PRConversations.

In 2013, PR blog­ger Gini Dietrich pop­ular­ised the PESO mod­el on her blog, Spin Sucks:

In June 2013, Gini Dietrich presen­ted the first iter­a­tion of the PESO mod­el you may recog­nise in a blog post: The Four Different Types of Media. It was fol­lowed in August by the post Mobile Marketing: Use the Four Media Types in Promotion, where she talked about integ­rat­ing paid, earned, owned, and shared.”
Source: PRConversations​.com 25Yaxley, H. (2020, June 28). Tracing the meas­ure­ment ori­gins of PESO. PRConversations​.com. https://​www​.prcon​ver​sa​tions​.com/​t​r​a​c​i​n​g​-​t​h​e​-​m​e​a​s​u​r​e​m​e​n​t​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​p​e​so/

Learn more: The PESO Model: Paid, Earned, Shared, and Owned Media

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Notable Figures in PR History

Edward Bernays and Doris E. Fleischman.
Edward Bernays and Doris E. Fleischman. (Credit: Wikipedia.)
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The Father of PR: Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays (1891 – 1995) is con­sidered the fath­er of pub­lic rela­tions (PR). His uncle was the fam­ous psy­cho­lo­gist Sigmund Freud, and Bernays, too, was inter­ested in beha­vi­our­al psy­cho­logy. 26Edward Bernays. (2023, November 13). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​E​d​w​a​r​d​_​B​e​r​n​ays 27Olasky, M. (1984). Retrospective: Bernays’ doc­trine of pub­lic opin­ion. Public Relations Review, 10, 3 – 12. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​4​)​8​0​088 – 0

Edward Bernays’ wife, Doris Fleischmann, was also a PR con­sult­ant who sig­ni­fic­antly con­trib­uted to the PR industry.

Bernays cer­tainly was some­thing of a char­ac­ter: His most fam­ous book is titled “Propaganda” — in which he out­lined how to man­age the per­cep­tions of crowds, much like mod­ern Niccolo Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. 28Propaganda. (2023, November 10). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​r​o​p​a​g​a​n​d​a​_​(​b​ook)

The con­scious and intel­li­gent manip­u­la­tion of the organ­ised habits and opin­ions of the masses is an import­ant ele­ment in demo­crat­ic soci­ety. Those who manip­u­late this unseen mech­an­ism of soci­ety con­sti­tute an invis­ible gov­ern­ment which is the true rul­ing power of our coun­try.”
Source: Propaganda 29Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. New York, NY: Horace Liveright.

PR Case Study: Torches of Freedom

When help­ing Lucky Strike, Bernays real­ised that cigar­ette smoking was mostly a male habit. From a busi­ness per­spect­ive, there was a golden oppor­tun­ity to add half the pop­u­la­tion to Lucky Strike’s list of poten­tial customers. 

No one had done this suc­cess­fully, not because no one ever had that idea, but because it was a tough nut to crack. But Edward Bernays suc­ceeded by tap­ping into anoth­er pre­vail­ing trend in soci­ety: The eman­cip­a­tion of women. 

Bernays posi­tioned cigar­ettes for women as “Torches of Freedom.” He placed the idea in art­icles, news­pa­pers, celebrity endorse­ments, and events. He planted the pub­lic per­cep­tion of women smoking not because it was enjoy­able but as a sym­bol of female independence.

PR Case Study: Eggs and Bacon

Have you ever had eggs and bacon for break­fast at a hotel? Well, you can thank Bernays for that idea.

Another PR legend is how Bernays helped the farm­ing industry con­vince people to eat more eggs and bacon. To make this hap­pen, he wanted to change people’s per­cep­tion of when it’s okay to eat eggs and bacon. 

Bernays cooper­ated with food sci­ent­ists to estab­lish that eggs and bacon should be part of a healthy break­fast for every American. And to mani­fest this, he col­lab­or­ated with chains of hotels to have them serve eggs and bacon for break­fast. 30Later in life, Bernays became a veget­ari­an and advoc­ated for a meat­less diet, which was unusu­al at the time, espe­cially giv­en his work pro­mot­ing products like bacon.

Learn more: Edward Bernays — The Father of PR

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John Dewey (Wikipedia).
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John Dewey and the ‘P’ in Public Relations

The term “pub­lics” can be traced back to the work of the American psy­cho­lo­gist and philo­soph­er John Dewey (1859 – 1952). 31John Dewey. (2023, March 25). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​J​o​h​n​_​D​e​wey

In his 1927 book, “The Public and Its Problems,” Dewey con­cep­tu­al­ised pub­lics as situ­ation­al groups formed in response to shared con­cerns or issues. He pos­ited that these groups emerge when indi­vidu­als con­front a com­mon prob­lem, recog­nise its exist­ence, and take col­lect­ive action to address it. 32Dewey, J. (1927). The Public and Its Problems. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press.

Dewey’s the­ory of the pub­lic sphere recog­nizes mul­tiple pub­lics and per­meable bor­ders between pub­lic and private, with com­mu­nic­a­tion play­ing a cru­cial role in pub­lic form­a­tion and re-form­a­tion.”
Source: Argumentation and Advocacy 33Asen, R. (2003). The Multiple Mr. Dewey: Multiple Publics and Permeable Borders in John Dewey’s Theory of the Public Sphere. Argumentation and Advocacy, 39, 174 – 188. … Continue read­ing

Dewey’s for­mu­la­tion of pub­lics marked a sig­ni­fic­ant depar­ture from the tra­di­tion­al under­stand­ing of the “mass pub­lic,” which assumed a more homo­gen­eous and pass­ive audience. 

By high­light­ing the situ­ation­al and dynam­ic nature of pub­lics, Dewey laid the found­a­tion for a more nuanced and adapt­ive approach to under­stand­ing the com­plex inter­ac­tions between organ­isa­tions and their vari­ous audiences.

  • The term pub­lics, as con­cep­tu­al­ised by Dewey, has become a corner­stone of mod­ern pub­lic rela­tions and com­mu­nic­a­tion theory.

This under­stand­ing of pub­lics as situ­ation­al and ever-chan­ging high­lighted the need for organ­isa­tions to remain agile and adapt­ive in their com­mu­nic­a­tion efforts.

By recog­nising the diverse and situ­ation­al nature of pub­lics, PR pro­fes­sion­als and com­mu­nic­at­ors can bet­ter under­stand the needs and con­cerns of their vari­ous audi­ences, allow­ing them to devel­op more effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion strategies. 

This recog­ni­tion of the act­ive and dynam­ic nature of pub­lics has also influ­enced broad­er aca­dem­ic and pub­lic dis­course, high­light­ing the import­ance of under­stand­ing and enga­ging with dif­fer­ent groups of people who share com­mon interests, con­cerns, or prob­lems.”
Source: Contemporary Pragmatism 34Rogers, M. (2010). Introduction: Revisiting The Public and Its Problems. Contemporary Pragmatism, 7, 1 – 7. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​6​3​/​1​8​7​5​8​185 – 90000152

Learn more: John Dewey and the ‘P’ in Public Relations

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Marshall McLuhan - The Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan (1911 — 1980).
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Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium is the Message”

The medi­um is the mes­sage” is a phrase coined by the Canadian philo­soph­er Marshall McLuhan in the first chapter of his not­able book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.” 35Understanding Media. (2023, September 18). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​U​n​d​e​r​s​t​a​n​d​i​n​g​_​M​e​dia

Despite being one of the most influ­en­tial thinkers in media the­ory, McLuhan’s ideas are often widely mis­un­der­stood. “The medi­um is the mes­sage” is no exception.

The medi­um is the mes­sage” does­n’t imply that con­tent or sub­stance lacks import­ance, only that the medi­um in which mes­sages are sent will sig­ni­fic­antly impact humanity.

  • McLuhan pro­posed that intro­du­cing a new medi­um will impact human­ity sig­ni­fic­antly more than any­thing sub­sequently trans­mit­ted through that medium.

McLuhan views medi­ums as exten­sions of human physiology. Our abil­ity to build houses extends our human skin, as it pro­tects against the ele­ments. This added lay­er of pro­tec­tion and phys­ic­al safety frees up men­tal band­width for human interaction.

So, a house is a medi­um in McLuhan’s inter­pret­a­tion. All human tech­no­lo­gies, down to the camp­fire, are con­sidered mediums.

McLuhan’s insight was that a medi­um affects the soci­ety in which it plays a role not by the con­tent delivered over the medi­um, but by the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the medi­um itself. […] McLuhan poin­ted to the light bulb as a clear demon­stra­tion of this concept. A light bulb does not have con­tent in the way that a news­pa­per has art­icles or a tele­vi­sion has pro­grams, yet it is a medi­um that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to cre­ate spaces dur­ing night­time that would oth­er­wise be envel­oped by dark­ness.”
Source: Wikipedia 36Marshall McLuhan. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​M​a​r​s​h​a​l​l​_​M​c​L​u​han

According to McLuhan, our abil­ity to cre­ate exten­sions of human­ity expo­nen­tially impacts our com­mu­nic­a­tion more than any mes­sage con­veyed as a result:

  • A light­bulb is a medi­um (an exten­sion of the human eye).
  • A house is a medi­um (an exten­sion of the human skin).
  • The tele­phone is a medi­um (an exten­sion of human vocal cords).

And so on.

Why is McLuhan’s ana­lys­is neces­sary? “The medi­um is the mes­sage” is a stark remind­er that a medi­um’s format (and its lim­it­a­tions) will massively impact human soci­ety — and the mes­sages them­selves, too.

We often default to seek­ing mean­ing in mes­sages but for­get to con­sider the medi­um’s inher­ent media logic.

Learn more: Media Logic is Dead, Long Live Media Logic

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Poster for PT Barnum and the Greatest Show on Earth
“The Greatest Show on Earth”
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Phineas Taylor Barnum: “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity”

Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum was a 19th-cen­tury American show­man, entre­pren­eur, and politi­cian known for his lar­ger-than-life per­son­al­ity and uncanny abil­ity to cap­ture the pub­lic’s ima­gin­a­tion. Born 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut, Barnum rose to prom­in­ence in the enter­tain­ment world by found­ing the Barnum & Bailey Circus, dubbed “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Barnum pion­eered the art of the press agentry mod­el, employ­ing sen­sa­tion­al­ism and pub­li­city stunts to gen­er­ate interest and draw crowds to his shows. His innov­at­ive mar­ket­ing tech­niques and relent­less pur­suit of the extraordin­ary laid the ground­work for many mod­ern pub­lic rela­tions strategies. 

Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum (1810−1891) was a savvy pub­li­city show­man, one who impacted par­tic­u­lar aspects of pub­lic rela­tions and advert­ising, primar­ily event plan­ning, event pro­mo­tion and true publicity/​media cov­er­age. Ahead of oth­ers in his time, he actu­ally under­stood the import­ance of media cov­er­age (he star­ted New York’s first illus­trated news­pa­per in 1853) and believed ‘there is no such thing as bad pub­li­city,’ a pop­u­lar phrase many times attrib­uted to Barnum him­self.”
Source: Big Communications 37Foster, A. (2017, January 20). The End of a Publicity Era: How P.T Barnum Affected Marketing and PR. Big Communications. https://​big​com​.com/​2​0​1​7​/​0​1​/​p​t​-​b​a​r​n​u​m​-​m​a​r​k​e​t​i​n​g​-​a​n​d​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

Although some crit­ics have labelled Barnum as a pur­vey­or of hoaxes and decep­tion, his endur­ing leg­acy as a vis­ion­ary show­man and mas­ter of spec­tacle con­tin­ues to cap­tiv­ate audi­ences and inspire gen­er­a­tions of enter­tain­ers and entrepreneurs.

  • An organ­isa­tion, starved of atten­tion, trust, and loy­alty, is com­pelled to wage a per­petu­al struggle for its con­tin­ued existence.

Learn more: P.T. Barnum: “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Publicity”

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Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management

No one is basing their atti­tudes and beha­viours on real­ity; we’re basing them on our per­cep­tions of real­ity.

Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974) pro­posed that our per­cep­tions of real­ity dif­fer from the actu­al real­ity. The real­ity is too vast and too com­plex for any­one to pro­cess. 38Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.

  • One who effect­ively man­ages the per­cep­tions of pub­lics acts as a mor­al legis­lat­or, cap­able of shap­ing atti­tudes and beha­viours accord­ing to the cat­egor­ic­al imperative.

The research on per­cep­tion man­age­ment is focused on how organ­isa­tions can cre­ate a desired reputation:

The OPM [Organizational Perception Management] field focuses on the range of activ­it­ies that help organ­isa­tions estab­lish and/​or main­tain a desired repu­ta­tion (Staw et al., 1983). More spe­cific­ally, OPM research has primar­ily focused on two inter­re­lated factors: (1) the tim­ing and goals of per­cep­tion man­age­ment activ­it­ies and (2) spe­cif­ic per­cep­tion man­age­ment tac­tics (Elsbach, 2006).”
Source: Organization Development Journal 39Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational per­cep­tion man­age­ment: A frame­work to over­come crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87. … Continue read­ing

Today, our per­cep­tions are heav­ily influ­enced by news media and influ­en­cers, algorithms, and social graphs. Therefore, per­cep­tion man­age­ment is more crit­ic­al than ever before.

We are all cap­tives of the pic­ture in our head — our belief that the world we have exper­i­enced is the world that really exists.”
— Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974)

Learn more: Walter Lippmann: Public Opinion and Perception Management

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Wag the Dog - What is public relations
Conrad Breen (Robert De Niro) and Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) in Wag the Dog (1997).
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Fictitious PR pro­fes­sion­als have made a few not­able appear­ances in pop­u­lar culture:

  • Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) in Wag the Dog is a spin doc­tor called in to help the US pres­id­ent man­age — and, when pos­sible, also avoid — a series of crises.
  • Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) in The West Wing is an intro­ver­ted com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or who writes press releases in his head.
  • Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) in Sex and the City is a media rela­tions spe­cial­ist, but her job isn’t exactly the series’ focus.
  • Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) in Thank You for Smoking is a lob­by­ist. His job? To lobby for Big Tobacco.
  • CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) in The West Wing is a press sec­ret­ary to the US President. 
  • Eli Wurman (Al Pacino) in People I Know is a press agent who knows everyone.
  • Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) in Sliding Doors is a hard-work­ing PR pro­fes­sion­al with two narratives.
  • Shauna Roberts (Debi Mazar) in Entourage is a pub­li­cist for Hollywood movie stars.
  • Stuart “Stu” Shepard (Colin Farrell) in Phone Booth is a lying pub­li­cist trapped in a phone booth.

Learn more: 12 PR Movies Every Spin Doctor Should Watch

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Digital Transformation of PR

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The Digital Transformation of PR

The biggest chal­lenge in mod­ern pub­lic rela­tions is the con­stantly chan­ging media land­scape. With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of social media, the rise of fake news, and the decline of tra­di­tion­al journ­al­ism, it can be dif­fi­cult for organ­isa­tions to con­trol the spread of inform­a­tion and pro­tect their reputations. 

When Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge pub­lished Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR in 2009, it pro­posed how PR should embrace the digit­al-first media land­scape and elev­ate our pro­fes­sion to new heights. 40Solis, B. & D. Breakenridge (2009, February 1). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. Amazon​.com: Books. … Continue read­ing

Public rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als must be stra­tegic and pro­act­ive in their approach and must be able to adapt to new tech­no­lo­gies and plat­forms to com­mu­nic­ate with their pub­lics effectively. 

The authors argue that earli­er paradigms are mostly inad­equate in address­ing the needs of a 21st Century in which com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­logy is cre­at­ing rap­id glob­al­iz­a­tion while it is dan­ger­ously exacer­bat­ing the ten­sions of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Through a crit­ic­al dis­cus­sion of pri­or assump­tions and paradigms in pub­lic rela­tions schol­ar­ship, the authors under­line the need for pub­lic rela­tions to revital­ize and bring its body of know­ledge into the 21st Century. The authors pos­it and dis­cuss how the com­munity-build­ing the­ory ori­gin­ally espoused by Kruckeberg and Starck (1988) and mod­i­fied in sub­sequent schol­ar­ship can provide a viable depar­ture point toward devel­op­ing new approaches to research about and prac­tice of pub­lic rela­tions that can take into account the dynam­ic envir­on­ment wrought by changes in com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­logy.”
Source: Public Relations Review 41Valentini, C., Kruckeberg, D., & Starck, K. (2012). Public rela­tions and com­munity: A per­sist­ent cov­en­ant. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 873 – 879. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​j​.​p​u​b​r​e​v​.​2​0​1​2​.​0​6​.​001

The biggest chal­lenge in PR is ensur­ing that our pro­fes­sion keeps up with new com­mu­nic­a­tion tech­no­logy and stays valu­able and rel­ev­ant as a busi­ness function.

Learn more: PR Must Adapt (Or Die)

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Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Public Relations 101

Be so good they can­’t ignore you.”
— Steve Martin

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Doctor Spin’s PR School: Free Introduction PR Course

Get star­ted with this free Introduction PR Course and learn essen­tial pub­lic rela­tions skills and con­cepts for future suc­cess in the PR industry.

Comparing Public Relations

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Broom, G., Lauzen, M., & Tucker, K. (1991). Public rela­tions and mar­ket­ing: Dividing the con­cep­tu­al domain and oper­a­tion­al turf. Public Relations Review, 17, 219 – 225. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​0​363 – 8111(91)90018‑G
2 Turk, J. (1985). Information sub­sidies and influ­ence. Public Relations Review, 11, 10 – 25. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​5​)​8​0​078 – 3
3 Argenti, P. (1996). Corporate Communication as a Discipline. Management Communication Quarterly, 10, 73 – 97. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​7​7​/​0​8​9​3​3​1​8​9​9​6​0​1​0​0​0​1​005
4 Brown, L., Call, A., Clement, M., & Sharp, N. (2019). Managing the nar­rat­ive: Investor rela­tions officers and cor­por­ate dis­clos­ure✰. Journal of Accounting and Economics. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​J​A​C​C​E​C​O​.​2​0​1​8​.​0​8​.​014
5 Petrovici, M. (2014). E‑Public Relations: Impact and Efficiency. A Case Study. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 141, 79 – 84. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​S​B​S​P​R​O​.​2​0​1​4​.​0​5​.​015
6 Post, J., Murray, E., Dickie, R., & Mahon, J. (1982). The pub­lic affairs func­tion in American cor­por­a­tions: Development and rela­tions with cor­por­ate plan­ning. Long Range Planning, 15, 12 – 21. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​0​024 – 6301(82)90115 – 7
7 Hall, R., & Deardorff, A. (2006). Lobbying as Legislative Subsidy. American Political Science Review, 100, 69 – 84. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​7​/​S​0​0​0​3​0​5​5​4​0​6​0​6​2​010
8 Mishra, K., Boynton, L., & Mishra, A. (2014). Driving Employee Engagement. International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 183 – 202. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​7​7​/​2​3​2​9​4​8​8​4​1​4​5​2​5​399
9 Coombs, W. (2015). The value of com­mu­nic­a­tion dur­ing a crisis: Insights from stra­tegic com­mu­nic­a­tion research. Business Horizons, 58, 141 – 148. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​B​U​S​H​O​R​.​2​0​1​4​.​1​0​.​003
10 Batra, R., & Keller, K. (2016). Integrating Marketing Communications: New Findings, New Lessons, and New Ideas. Journal of Marketing, 80, 122 – 145. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​5​0​9​/​j​m​.​1​5​.​0​419
11 Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven Models of Framing: Implications for Public Relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 11, 205 – 242. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​2​0​7​/​S​1​5​3​2​7​5​4​X​J​P​R​R​1​1​0​3​_02
12 Haywood, R. (1998). Public rela­tions budget and resources. Public Relations for Marketing Professionals, 83 – 96. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 1‑349 – 14365-8_5
13 Morris, T., & Goldsworthy, S. (2008). From PR to pro­pa­ganda. 97 – 111. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 0‑230 – 59485-2_7
14 Stakeholder (cor­por­ate). (2023, October 27). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​t​a​k​e​h​o​l​d​e​r​_​(​c​o​r​p​o​r​ate)
15 A wide­spread mis­con­cep­tion is that the PR func­tion only deals with journ­al­ists (Media Relations) and product pro­mo­tion (Marketing PR). However, such work rep­res­ents only a tiny frac­tion of all the stake­hold­er rela­tion­ships PR pro­fes­sion­als must man­age daily.
16 Smith, B. (2012). Public rela­tions iden­tity and the stake­hold­er – organ­iz­a­tion rela­tion­ship: A revised the­or­et­ic­al pos­i­tion for pub­lic rela­tions schol­ar­ship. Public Relations Review, 38, 838 – 845. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​J​.​P​U​B​R​E​V​.​2​0​1​2​.​0​6​.​011
17 Polo, M. (2020). The Role of Prosumers in the Interactive and Digital Processes of Public Relations. 161 – 174. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​4​0​1​8​/​978 – 1‑7998 – 3119‑8.ch012
18, 19 Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive pub­lics: The for­got­ten pub­lics in pub­lic rela­tions. Public Relations Review, 26(4), 499 – 515. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​0​0​)​0​0​061 – 8
20 Hallahan, K. (2009, November 19). The Dynamics of Issues Activation and Response: An Issues Processes Model. Journal of Public Relations Research. https://​www​.tand​fon​line​.com/​d​o​i​/​a​b​s​/​1​0​.​1​2​0​7​/​S​1​5​3​2​7​5​4​X​J​P​R​R​1​3​0​1_3
21 Botan, C., & Taylor, M. (2004). Public rela­tions: State of the field. Journal of Communication, 54, 645 – 661. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​460 – 2466.2004.TB02649.X
22 Grunig, J. (2011). Public rela­tions excel­lence 2010. Journal of Professional Communication, 1. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​5​1​7​3​/​J​P​C​.​V​1​I​1​.85
23 Silfwer, J. (2022, November 6). 3 PR Approaches: Excellence, Rhetorical, and Critical. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​r​-​a​p​p​r​o​a​c​h​es/
24 Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. https://​mem​bers​.aect​.org/​e​d​t​e​c​h​/​e​d​1​/​3​4​/34 – 05.html
25 Yaxley, H. (2020, June 28). Tracing the meas­ure­ment ori­gins of PESO. PRConversations​.com. https://​www​.prcon​ver​sa​tions​.com/​t​r​a​c​i​n​g​-​t​h​e​-​m​e​a​s​u​r​e​m​e​n​t​-​o​r​i​g​i​n​s​-​o​f​-​p​e​so/
26 Edward Bernays. (2023, November 13). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​E​d​w​a​r​d​_​B​e​r​n​ays
27 Olasky, M. (1984). Retrospective: Bernays’ doc­trine of pub­lic opin­ion. Public Relations Review, 10, 3 – 12. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​4​)​8​0​088 – 0
28 Propaganda. (2023, November 10). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​r​o​p​a​g​a​n​d​a​_​(​b​ook)
29 Bernays, E. L. (1928). Propaganda. New York, NY: Horace Liveright.
30 Later in life, Bernays became a veget­ari­an and advoc­ated for a meat­less diet, which was unusu­al at the time, espe­cially giv­en his work pro­mot­ing products like bacon.
31 John Dewey. (2023, March 25). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​J​o​h​n​_​D​e​wey
32 Dewey, J. (1927). The Public and Its Problems. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press.
33 Asen, R. (2003). The Multiple Mr. Dewey: Multiple Publics and Permeable Borders in John Dewey’s Theory of the Public Sphere. Argumentation and Advocacy, 39, 174 – 188. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​8​0​/​0​0​0​2​8​5​3​3​.​2​0​0​3​.​1​1​8​2​1​585
34 Rogers, M. (2010). Introduction: Revisiting The Public and Its Problems. Contemporary Pragmatism, 7, 1 – 7. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​6​3​/​1​8​7​5​8​185 – 90000152
35 Understanding Media. (2023, September 18). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​U​n​d​e​r​s​t​a​n​d​i​n​g​_​M​e​dia
36 Marshall McLuhan. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​M​a​r​s​h​a​l​l​_​M​c​L​u​han
37 Foster, A. (2017, January 20). The End of a Publicity Era: How P.T Barnum Affected Marketing and PR. Big Communications. https://​big​com​.com/​2​0​1​7​/​0​1​/​p​t​-​b​a​r​n​u​m​-​m​a​r​k​e​t​i​n​g​-​a​n​d​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
38 Lippmann, Walter. 1960. Public Opinion (1922). New York: Macmillan.
39 Hargis, M. & Watt, John. (2010). Organizational per­cep­tion man­age­ment: A frame­work to over­come crisis events. Organization Development Journal. 28. 73 – 87. https://​www​.researchg​ate​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​/​2​8​8​2​9​2​5​9​6​_​O​r​g​a​n​i​z​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​_​p​e​r​c​e​p​t​i​o​n​_​m​a​n​a​g​e​m​e​n​t​_​A​_​f​r​a​m​e​w​o​r​k​_​t​o​_​o​v​e​r​c​o​m​e​_​c​r​i​s​i​s​_​e​v​e​nts
40 Solis, B. & D. Breakenridge (2009, February 1). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. Amazon​.com: Books. https://​www​.amazon​.com/​d​p​/​0​1​3​7​1​5​0​6​9​5​?​t​a​g​=​p​r​2​0​0​f​-​2​0​&​c​a​m​p​=​1​4​5​7​3​&​c​r​e​a​t​i​v​e​=​3​2​7​6​4​1​&​l​i​n​k​C​o​d​e​=​a​s​1​&​c​r​e​a​t​i​v​e​A​S​I​N​=​0​1​3​7​1​5​0​6​9​5​&​a​d​i​d​=​0​2​J​7​6​Y​W​6​R​9​G​X​V​R​C​C​J​J​M0&
41 Valentini, C., Kruckeberg, D., & Starck, K. (2012). Public rela­tions and com­munity: A per­sist­ent cov­en­ant. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 873 – 879. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​j​.​p​u​b​r​e​v​.​2​0​1​2​.​0​6​.​001
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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