by Felix Lehane
When I told my friends and family that I was going to be working in public relations, their first question was – “so what will you actually be doing?”
Perhaps ironically, PR has a bit of a PR problem. Not many people know what it really means. Of course, everybody had a general impression of what PR is, but some of these were a little off the mark. You can read more about PR myths that need busting here. But what does PR actually involve?
What do PRs actually do?
Despite what Absolutely Fabulous’ Eddy and Patsy might have you think, a job in PR isn’t all glitzy bars and social events. Networking is an important part of the job, and it involves building relationships journalists over time and courting potential clients. But whilst much of this happens at events, we tend to spend much more time organising these than attending them.
However that does not mean it isn’t exciting. Public relations means managing all the facets of a business’ reputation, through its relations with the public and the media. One of the most engaging things about working in PR is the variety this requires.
Day-to-day life in a PR agency involves getting on the phone to journalists from different sectors of the media including broadcast, print and online; managing social media profiles; event planning; and creating quality content. Every PR agency will have a slightly different recipe for how much of each of these they do.
What’s the difference between PR and Advertising?
The most obvious difference between PR and advertising is that whilst advertisers buy exposure, PRs deal with earned and owned coverage. Our job at Flame PR is not to buy publicity for our clients, but to convince journalists why, in a world where information is abundant, our clients are relevant and interesting to write about.
But PR isn’t just a way of saving what you would have spent on advertising. Writing about yourself and having a journalist write about you are very different things. 70% of people prefer to learn about products through content rather than through traditional advertisements according to MNG, whilst 92% of decision makers say they trust earned media with only half of them trusting paid ads. 
One is an opportunity for your business to tell the world about your product and why people should buy it. The other is an opportunity for someone else, a credible, independent third party, to tell the world about your product and your business – why you are relevant, and why you are worth listening to.
Of course, as well as being placed in journalist’s stories, PR opportunities include thought leadership, the chance for you and your company to give advice to the sectors you work in, positioning the yourself as a leading voice on where the industry is going. This offers the opportunity to show the world not only what your business does, but what it has to say about the wider industry. Rather than directly telling the world that you are an expert in your industry, you are showing it your expertise.
And this is just the media relations part of PR. Depending on business needs, PR involves a huge variety of activities, from community relations and public affairs to corporate and social responsibility.
My company doesn’t do any dodgy dealings – why would it need PR?
Reputation management is of course a big part of PR. But PR is not only about controversial stunts, and it’s certainly not about cover-ups or distractions.
While it is important for companies to have strategies in place in case of a PR disaster, on a day-to-day level reputation management is not about polishing company’s tarnished reputation – more often it is about creating a reputation for businesses of any size that need more exposure.
PR has no power to block information that is already in the public domain. Its focus is on showing what is great and innovative about a company. PR is about telling the truth well.
Today journalists are increasingly overworked and inundated with huge amounts of information. The real skill of PR lies in persuading writers and broadcasters why your company, which they may not have heard much of before, is so dynamic, engaging and important that they should be writing about it right now.