Hughes PR, Marketing, Media, Public relations

Champagne swilling, celebrities, long lunches and other misconceptions about PR

Natalie Ciccocioppo writes…

Last week on my way home, I stopped off at the service station to fill up my car. As I paid for my petrol, the cashier started a conversation with me:

“On your way home from work?” he said.
“Yes, I am,” I replied
“What do you do?”
“I work in Public Relations,” I answered.
The cashier stared at me, confused.
As I began to explain the role of Public Relations, a look of recognition came across his face.
“Ahhhhhhh, you work in advertising!”

It’s quite a common occurrence for me, and I’m sure other PR BlogPostpractitioners, when describing our work to family, friends and people I meet, for them to confuse PR with advertising or marketing.

While it’s no doubt that PR, advertising and marketing are related and complementary fields (and some organisations group these roles together) they are distinctly different.

Getting in to the differences between PR and marketing would be another blog post in itself. Though not always the case, advertising and marketing tend to be more sales driven, often linked directly to promoting a product or service to customers. PR is driven by communicating a company’s overall reputation and building relationships with key stakeholders such as the media, internal and external clients.

I also find I get asked if, as a PR Consultant, I go to a lot of parties and meet celebrities. I try not to roll my eyes too much at that one!

This is what I call the ‘Samantha Jones effect’ (after the popular character in Sex and the City). Depictions of PR in books, movies and TV shows have played a role in glamourising perceptions of PR. Across these mediums, PR is portrayed as being all about swilling champagne, fashion, attending club and restaurant openings and having long, lazy lunches. And for those who aren’t familiar with the industry and its role, these popular culture references are often what comes to their mind when they think about PR.

And many of these representations of PR are also focused heavily around the role of Publicists – while publicity and media relations is an important and valuable part of the PR tool kit – PR is not just about publicity.

There’s somewhat of a disconnect between what people think PR is about, and what we really do, hence why the above meme created by our industry colleagues at Edelman Australia resonates with me and other PR practitioners.

Good PR is not about long lunches, parties, celebrities and it’s not the same as advertising or marketing. We don’t spend all of our time at events or schmoozing celebrities. A lot of the time, we are in the office or talking to our clients, working hard to build and protect reputations by creating and implementing strategic communications programs which utilise a range of techniques such as media relations, crisis and issues management, digital media, publications, internal communications, stakeholder and community relations to help businesses achieve their goals.

What can we do to help change these misconceptions of PR? I believe as an industry, we could start with working on a consistent definition of PR, or an ‘elevator pitch’ in every day terms. Something a PR practitioner could explain to a person they meet at a friend’s BBQ, or in my case, the man at the service station.

After more than 7 years working in the industry, I’ve seen firsthand the immense value that PR can add to brands. Being a part of this, is the main reason I work in, and am passionate about the role that PR plays in business. And I must say, while they are a great way to meet people and connect with colleagues, going to the occasional event doesn’t really register on my radar!

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.