• Betsy Storm

What Is Public Relations, and Why Is it Such a Powerhouse?

Updated: Jan 12, 2020


Many people wonder (and rightfully) what exactly is public relations, and why does it matter? Let’s begin with a nonbusiness definition, this one from Socrates, who reportedly said: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly possess.”

I love that!



The term “public relations” is a fuzzy one.


Essentially, PR includes the communications between an organization and its various stakeholders — both internal and external. PR involves creation of an organization’s messages and interactions with various audiences — from customers to members of the media.


The word that everyone does immediately understand (rather than public relations) — is “communications,” and that’s what I do. I communicate with clients to cultivate strategies that meet their short-and long-term communications and marketing objectives. I communicate with members of the media on behalf of my clients ... you get the picture.


These efforts range from the simple (say, writing a blog post) to the sublime — say, providing support for a high-visibility public event. For example, when a client of mine was a lead partner in opening the first-of-its-kind home in the Midwest to provide independent living for people with spina bifida, I was the liaison with other organizations. These contacts included government officials, hospital executives, journalists, and more. Each group needed something different and all in a timely manner. We’re talking everything from invitations to publicity to parking permits.


Richard M. Daley, Chicago’s mayor at that time, participated in the groundbreaking event for the facility, so the pressure was palpable. On a humorous note, an hour before the event, I realized the ground for the “groundbreaking” was nearly frozen. Yikes — time to speed into problem-solving mode. Armed with one of the ceremonial shovels (and dressed in my best suit and heels), I chiseled away at the ground so everything would come off without a hitch later.


Our results were fulfilling, to say the least. One young adult who moved into the residence was featured on the cover of the “Chicago Tribune” Magazine, among other media placements.


These are some of the key characteristics of an effective PR person:


· First, she must be a quick thinker and problem solver (i.e., the frozen ground just described).


· Second, she must be in the know — continually monitoring various sources of information and applying said info for two reasons: first, to benefit her clients by keeping eyes open for PR opportunities, and second, to make them aware of news that could be troublesome to them if not addressed quickly and strategically.


· Third, she’s a relationship architect. This arena is geared to skilled communicators that know how to establish, nurture, and advance positive relationships. The most effective PR types treasure these relationships above all. PR pros must be 100 percent reliable and able to keep confidences. Careful listening is a must.


· Fourth, she needs to be laser focused on the big picture, the end game. With so much social media out there, for example, it is easy to lose sight of what really matters. Resources — both time and money — are limited.


· Fifth, she must become familiar with the fundamentals of a client’s business. This tenet can’t be overemphasized. If I’m working for a restaurant chain, for example, I follow the news of that industry as closely as I can. Obviously, I am a far more effective advisor when I’m committed to being a careful observer.


· Sixth, it should go without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway: powerful, creative and detail-oriented writing remains the foundation of effective, results-oriented, meaningful PR.


Here are six ways PR benefits businesses:


· Helps break through the clutter and the crowd.


· Enhances brand credibility by simply telling humanizing stories — sharing something meaningful about a business owner, her passion, and her expertise.


· Paves the way for greater profitability.


· Assists companies in shaping their image and reputation.


· Helps organizations, business owners, and others become leaders in their respective fields (which can attract more business).


· Partners with clients to scale impressive heights and minimize the hurdles that can derail a triumph.


PR is indeed a powerhouse. Use it wisely.

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