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BLOG: What’s PR (Public Relations) Exactly? What It’s; and What It’s NOT

Posted by in Inspiration, Latest News, PR, Public relations

I have been working in the PR industry in Asia and the UK for almost two decades. Until today, the single most common ask question is:

“What is PR exactly?”

This triggers me to write this blog, to explain what PR is; and what PR isn’t.

First, let’s define PR. What is PR exactly?

There are many definitions about it when you google “PR” or “Public Relations”. But I will give PR my own definition based on my actual experience helping hundreds of big and small companies to do their external PR/communications over the past two decades.

Ultimately, the single function of PR is:

“To earn good reputation from your target audiences (customers) for long-term benefits.

Why reputation matters? To name a few, having good reputation helps you to build and maintain customer trust, to do sales more easily, to attract the right teams, and to survive and thrive in tough times. It’s about long-term success, not short-lived quick wins.

Let me explain more.

What PR is NOT:

  • PR is not about quick wins. If you want quick wins/sales, hire a salesperson, not a PR person/agency. PR will fail completely if you only want short-term success.
  • PR is not sugar coating. Your audiences are not stupid. They are smart people. It is not about trying to please or lure them into illusion. PR requires solid evidence, statistics, data, facts, and meaningful stories.
  • PR is not the same as advertising. Arguably, PR (earned trust) is a much harder job than advertising (paid-for trust).
  • PR is not all about parties. It is not just about looking good and going to glamorous events. It involves lots of strategic planning, hard work, stress and blood behind the scene.
  • PR is not flappy or just about meaningless talking. While PR or reputation-building work is often invisible, PR work can be 100% tangible and visible with a set of clear KPIs to measure success.

What PR is:

  • PR is fundamental to the business growth plan of any size of a company. While PR doesn’t do short-term sales magic, it is instrumental to a company’s long-term success (including sales). Just think about all those famous companies and cities, such as IKEA, Apple, Coco-Cola, Singapore Airlines, Hermes, Paris, and London. They all have great reputation and brand image, don’t they? This is a tangible result of consistent PR efforts over decades.
  • PR is about building the single biggest currency for a company or a person – GOOD REPUTATION. “If I was down to my last PR dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates
  • PR is about getting third-party, unbiased and trusted endorsements. “Advertising is saying you are good. PR is getting someone to say you’re good.” – Seth Godin
  • PR is about connecting with your customers and other people in a trustworthy, fair and honest manner. PR stories are real, authentic stories. They are not made-up stories and that’s why they are so powerful, memorable and effective. “Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is definitely more effective than a front-page ad.” – Richard Branson
  • PR is about positively influencing others – whether it is to buy a product, to use a service, to vote for a politician, to enroll in a course, or to believe in something or someone. It has to have good intentions and causes behind it. Use PR purposefully and positively.

I can go on and on forever but I do hope this short post gives you a better understanding of PR.

Do you have anything to add to or disagree with the list above? Got more questions about PR? Write to and I will answer them honestly.

My final words: Build your own reputation now.

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Sally Maier-Yip is the MD and Founder at 11K. She is a seasoned cross-cultural Public Relations Strategist with a mission to help ambitious companies grow in China, Hong Kong and the UK.

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