What is Public Relations in the 21st Century?

Life is full of questions that don’t have an easy answer. For business professionals, one of the most perplexing questions could be what is Public Relations (PR)? Many prefer questions with just one answer, but for most there is not one simple answer that accurately defines Public Relations. PR is varying field in the world of business that has existed for decades and is evolving in the 21st century to encompass more and more ideals.

Basic Public Relations Defined

Nailing down a specific definition of PR is difficult because what it encompasses will vary from business to business and even on a situational basis. Speaking in broad terms, PR is the process of managing the flow of information between an individual or corporation and the general public.

As mentioned, specific PR practices can vary based upon the business and its goals. PR is often associated with the public face of a business. PR tactics include garnering public attention for a product, communicating financial results or business strategies, and engaging government entities to influence public policy.

Evolution of Public Relations

According to many, the roots of PR stretch back to Britain in the late 1700s. Those early efforts were conducted on behalf of politician Charles James Fox and included press relations and lobbying. Early examples of PR in the United States include efforts to promote circus, theater acts, and other public spectacles.

As capitalism grew in the United States and the country became an economic powerhouse, PR became a tool for promoting products and services to consumers, narrowing down a target audience, and maintaining a positive brand image in the minds of the public. Even throughout the early evolution of PR, the “public” in Public Relations was critical. Building relationships and connection with the public, government agencies, and journalism outlets was critical in spreading information.

Modern Public Relations

That advent and expansion of the Internet, along with the rise of social media, has changed PR in numerous ways. The difference between PR of the past and modern PR is lowered risk in a sense of hit or miss. PR used to be conducted in a manner that business owners were never sure if and when press releases would run, how much exposure they would get, and whether or not mailings would reach the targeted audience.

The Internet has brought about the invention of press release distribution sites, blogs, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that allow for a guaranteed release of information. Business can use these services to ensure that information about products and services reach intended audiences.

With sites like Facebook and Twitter boasting millions of users in the United States alone, business not only have a more guaranteed route to transmit information, but also a proven venue for interacting with the public to maintain a brand image.

The modern PR professional should be able to mix the best of the past with the best of the modern world to promote products and services and build a positive brand image. Modern PR specialists excel when they use press releases and media pitches transmitted through proven journalistic contacts, along with social media management to interact with the public on behalf of a business and brand.

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