What is PR?...
Fist up – PR is not press release… it is public relations, also referred to as media relations. The art, science and general selling of news, opinion or materials that the media can use as content.
Selling? Surely not… well yes. As half of the PR professionals world wide take a sharp in breath and formulate an argument, let me further explain. A PR professional has to be a master sales person. They are promoting and selling their content to media/press/social professionals in order for it to be used. Of course no monetary value actually transacts (or else PR becomes advertorial or advertising) but make no mistake, to be successful in PR, you need to be able to sell.
It is rumored that 90% of everything you read in newspapers & magazines or news you hear on the radio or see on TV has been shaped by PR professionals (and often PR un-professionals). Of course 100% of it has been scripted by the actual media, but in 90% of the cases these media professionals have been interacting, taking material or have been cajoled by a PR professional.
It is also rumored that 10% of all companies gain 90% of all the media exposure. I’m not so sure, and wouldn’t be surprised if the statistic was far more dramatic that that.
So straight off, it is clear that PR is a part of the media, and to be part of the media you have to proactively participate in PR.
Why does PR exist?...
Why is it so difficult to not look at a car accident as you cruise the other direction?
The members of the public (you and me included) have an appetite for reading newspapers, surfing for information on the web and watching TV that has factual content. When we can’t do that we’re happy for our radio station to be interrupted from our favorite music with regular news bulletins. For the particularly masochistic, there is talk radio.
There’s the need.
The great media moguls of the world make millions of dollars satisfying our needs – which of course creates jobs, boosts the economy and some would argue adds content value to society.
At the same time, corporations (and in modern day – individuals who’s careers are often run as corporations) need to ‘sell themselves’ to make money.
So PR connects the corporations with the media… simple really.
How did it all start?...
Funnily enough, it all came from "America's No. 1 Publicist." Ironic isn’t it? Edward Louis Bernays (November 22, 1891 – March 9, 1995) is considered one of the fathers of the field of public relations. Born in Vienna to Jewish parents, Bernays was both a blood nephew and a nephew-in-law to psychoanalyst pioneer Sigmund Freud (which is mixed up in itself – you work it out).
One of Bernays' favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of "third party authorities" to plead his clients' causes. "If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway," he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon and eggs as a hearty breakfast.
In Propaganda (1928), his most important book, Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy: “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
So given the choice between politics and PR, who wouldn’t choose PR?
Why is there a need for another PR book?...
Well basically the world’s education system is pretty dull. I don’t mean to offend the educators of the world (I’m also one of them) – only those in charge of educational policy. When I was about 14 years old I was given the choice of studying languages, mathematics, history, geography and science. While complex algorithms were fun to learn, I’ve yet to find a use for them in adult life.
I was never given the choice of learning something that was a real job… I was never offered classes in management, accounting, marketing or human resources until I was in university.
And it looks like those in educational policy making have yet to catch up with society even today over 25 years later. There is no argument that Public Relations is a recognized profession employing many people throughout the world (The Public Relations Society of America – PRSA – in 2012 noted they had membership exceeding 21,000 professionals, nearly 10,000 PRSSA students represented by over 100 regional chapters). Yet if you were chasing this as a career what educational options exist? There are many complementary courses at all educational standard levels, but very few straight Public Relations syllabuses out there.
The nearest that most people can find educational courses are either a marketing or advertising/PR (so obviously different careers requiring different qualities in people) courses. Public Relations is a sub-compartment in these cases so these students have to understand and learn about PR in a very short time. There’s a simple reason why this book is needed.
There are even more people in the PR profession that have gained experience, but don’t have any formal qualifications in this area. For these professionals these pages may well fill a gap and make the professional more rounded and a better employee.
There is also a third need for this book. For those that manage and have to train new, junior and mid-level professional either client or agency side, this book provides both a training structure and reference guide for on-the-job self-improvement.
The fourth reason is more all-encompassing. As more and more people turn to social media and become content creators (or aggregators) there is a greater need for those adding content online to be aware of how the PR function lives and breaths.
Lastly, there are the non-PR professionals that need to carry our public relations, but do not have a PR practitioner in-house and can not use an agency. Often entrepreneurs who have a young, successful business and want to shout about it. For these entrepreneurs, the following pages will provide templates and processes so that you can achieve great PR results with a limited budget and within a limited time period.