PR? What’s That?

Since I am a college student, I get asked this one question (it feels like) at least six times a week: “So, what is your major?” When I reply with my answer, I either get a polite “Ohhhhh” and a questioning stare or an obviously fake, “That’s cool!” So I always try and explain what public relations is to the person I am talking to. “Public relations is basically like advertising for people and brands,” I try and explain in the most simple words I can, however, PR is much more than that and is often a bear to define because it is so complex. Today we are going to take a closer look at public relations and why it is so important!

Many misconceptions float around the “PR” name. The article, “Misconceptions of PR” by Nicole Rohde outlines the many misconceptions that live in the PR world. Many believe that public relations is the “dark side” of media, is often portrayed as “evil” and is infamous for providing misinformation. This untrue image of PR is due partly because of how public relations is portrayed in film. Many assume that just because someone can write and works well with people, they can get a job in PR. However, there is a reason colleges offer degrees in public relations– there is a definite strategy involved behind the work of PR experts (Rohde, 2015).

Another misconception that adds to the negative reputation of public relations is that it only works with the elite and therefore is bad for democracy because the average joe is not involved in what is happening. This assumption is false because without PR, a majority of the public would not be informed about smaller organizations that use public relations to publicize their voice and be heard by the general population (Rohde, 2015). A major reason these misconceptions exist is because people who don’t really know the industry try and explain the role of PR and they are usually the one with the misinformation.

When I first declared my major as “Advertising and Public Relations” I planned on going the more advertising route– mainly because I did not know what PR was. One day I was curious and decided to look it up. When I realized what a job in PR entails I was beyond excited because it incorporates everything I want to do in my life. There are so many jobs that are involved in public relations that it is hard to define in one simple phrase. According to Linda Hagan, as stated in the American Journal of Business Education, public relations is, “developing and maintaining strategic relationships with the various publics of an organization.” (Hagan, 2011, para. 3). Like I mentioned earlier, when I explain public relations to others I say it is basically advertising for people and brands, but more specifically it’s the maintenance of a reputation between a brand or person and the public.

Much of the time, advertising is used over public relations because we are surrounded by advertisements everyday, they seem to follow us wherever we go– the mall, the television, the internet, etc. However, since public relations involves more behind the scenes work, we may underestimate the importance it has (Meranus, 2015). With that being said, it seems like the public relations industry needs a little public relations help itself!

Public relations is special because it involves so many different jobs. There are so many skills and strategies that are used in the PR world which makes a person who has a job in PR easily adaptable and possible to grow in multiple directions. A person who works in PR can jump from different jobs that are all considered “public relations” but do very different things depending on the industry or clients they are working for. To me, this is what makes PR so special because everyday is a different adventure!

Public relations is important because without it, there would be a lot of companies, brands and people that the public would never hear about. Public relations helps give people a voice that can be heard by many. If you think about it, we all use PR to maintain our own reputation and relationships with the people we encounter day in and day out. Many, if not all of us, work hard to manage the “face” we show to the world. We have an idea of what kind of person we want to illustrate and we use some PR strategies to help portray that image to the world sometimes without even realizing it. Without PR we would not be able to create and protect the appearance we want to display to the ones around us. This is one of the many reasons public relations is so important.

Public relations consists of a web of different responsibilities, causing each day in the PR world to be different from the last. Although public relations often gets a bad rep, it is important to remember that a lot of misconceptions made about the industry are made by people who don’t really know the industry and what PR really is. Public relations is extremely important and useful in society and just because the workings of PR experts are not explicitly publicized, it does not mean PR should be valued any less.


Hagan, L. M., PhD. (2011). Building the case for educating business leaders on the importance of public relations. American Journal of Business Education, 4(8), 43-48. Retrieved from

Meranus, R. (2015, March 27.) How public relations can help your small business grow. PR Newswire. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Rohde, N. (2015, October 15). Misconceptions of PR. Search Laboratory. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from


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