What is Public Relations and Communications All About?

By Tiara Ogabang

An introduction to public relations  

Right from the start, let's make it clear that this article will be most helpful to individuals who are brand new to the field of public relations but are interested in PR nonetheless. 

Maybe you've always been interested in PR to some degree and you're finally getting around to doing a bit of research, or maybe you've noticed some PR campaigns in action lately and you wanted to know more about how they work and what they do. 

In any case, we're here to answer this question: "What is public relations and communication all about?" 

This question is phrased perfectly. Public relations can't exist without communication, and that's most of what we'll be talking about today

Why do clients seek out public relations services in the first place? What are they trying to communicate when they hire a PR team? How do PR professionals and PR firms manage to make that communication possible? 

Well, we can answer many of these questions for you. Just keep in mind that not every public relations campaign is the same, though they all involve some form of communication through one channel or another. 

Why do clients want to communicate? 

So why do clients want to communicate anything? Indeed, who are PR clients, usually? 

Let's start with this idea: just about any professional or group of professionals can benefit from some form of PR. 

It doesn't matter whether you're a giant company that deals with the general public all the time or not. The 'public' in public relations doesn't always refer exclusively to the general public. 

It really just means a group of people who are especially important to a client. 

Why do clients want to communicate

To a medical supply company, the 'public' is hospital directors and the medical professionals who use their products to save lives. 

To a corporate lawyer, the 'public' is major corporations that need to be very careful about how they conduct their affairs. 

To a recording artist, the 'public' is their diehard fans who consistently purchase or stream their music and attend live shows.

As you can see, professionals prioritize different groups of people, and making sure that they stay on the good side of these groups can often make or break their careers. 

What do clients want to communicate? 

Next up, what do clients want to communicate with whoever their 'public' happens to be? 

Well, at different times, clients will have different PR goals, based on the immediate needs of the company or brand. 

This is one of those PR details that changes a great deal over the course of actual PR work. 

Let's imagine that the fictional musician we mentioned earlier has enlisted the help of a PR firm in their area. They've signed a contract to work with this firm for a number of years, and based on the situation, that PR team will create different campaigns to fit the needs of the client. 

When the artist first signed up for PR services, the main goal might have been to promote a new international tour that would span more than 100 different cities around the world. 

In this situation, the artist would definitely want to get the word out to their fans, which might be accomplished most effectively by sending an email blast to fans who have signed up for updates on the artist's website. 

Or it might be communicated by posting a prominent message to the artist's page on a number of different subscription-based music streaming services. 

The point is, a year after this, the artist's main PR goal might be to shift the makeup of their audience after creating a new album in a completely different genre. 

In this situation, the PR team would probably take a very different approach, finding ways to communicate with people who are already interested in this other genre of music. 

What do clients want to communicate

In effect, that could mean advertising on relevant radio stations across the country or setting up interviews between the artist and different websites that cover the genre the artist is pivoting to. 

As you can see, the reasons a PR client might want to communicate with their "audience" can be extremely different. 

But no matter the reason, public relations professionals need to know how to adapt to the situation.  

How do clients communicate with their audience? 

Last, but certainly not least, how can all these different kinds of clients communicate with their audience, no matter who that audience happens to be? 

The methods through which PR campaigns are executed have already been touched on in this article, especially in the previous section. 

Even more important to note here is that these methods have been steadily expanding since the internet became a common part of daily life for so many people around the world. 

More traditional 'channels' or 'avenues' by which PR campaigns communicated messages to audiences would include things like television commercials, movie trailers that played before other movies, and, of course, newspaper advertisements. 

But while many of these channels are still in use today, they are now joined by channels that didn't even exist 30 years ago. 

Social media marketing alone is barely more than 10 years old at this point, and it has definitely evolved substantially even since then. 

Here's another important lesson you may have already picked up on: not every PR channel is appropriate for every situation and for every client. 

How do clients communicate with their audience

That corporate lawyer we mentioned earlier, for example, would probably not gain several new corporate clients by promoting their services on Instagram

However, if that same lawyer wanted to gain new clients in the tech and startup space, social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter might be a great place to start, and would certainly represent less of a financial investment than attending trade shows and doing a lot of in-person networking. 

As we mentioned above, all of this is just scratching the surface of what public relations and communication are all about. 

There's so much to learn about PR, and you can get started learning more by checking out some of the other articles that we have right here on the site.