A good public relations effort is applicable to so many aspects of everyday lifethat it is nearly impossible to arrive at an all-encompassing definition. This is further complicated by the fact that as public relations has grown in importance over the past few years, it has also become more complex and diverse. Various attempts have been made to define public relations, and the following describe the field to a degree:
- Public Relations News, the international public relations weekly for executives, defined public relations as a broad field involving "a total communications effort.” It must be earned through its performance, not by what it says and it should be "preventive" ("it should be used not only to throw communications snowballs but also to help make and shape them according to the types of targets to be hit"). Finally, it needs time "to gain public impact and change people's minds."
- At an international meeting of public relations practitioners in Mexico City, public relations was described as an art and social science that analyzes trends to predict their effect and to help organization leaders implement programs to serve both the organization's and the public's interest.
As the definition from Public Relations News points out, the ultimate quality evaluation for any public relations campaign is the final performance. Though the information conveyed through public relations is crucial, the important factor of a campaign's effectiveness is what that distribution of information helps to achieve. Public relations is goal oriented, and the final test is whether it achieves what it originally set out to do.
Similarities with the Advertising Field: Public relations is often compared to advertising, and the two disciplines have many similarities. Both are persuasive and communicate through print and broadcast media. The two often strive toward the same goal or promote the same product or service. People who enter either field share common traits of creativity, energy, and stimulation.
Public relations and advertising are at their best when they work side by side. Most of advertising's messages are communicated through paid media. And in advertising, unlike public relations, where material appears at an editor's discretion, the agency has control over what appears in that space. It also tries to use variations on the same theme in each advertisement. Well-known themes repeated over and over include "Coke Is It," McDonald's "You Deserve a Break Today," and Miller Lite's "Everything You Always Wanted in a Beer‑and Less." Using tools from advertising, the public relations practitioner then employs these themes, expands on them, and adds others.
See the following articles for more information:
- Personal Qualifications of a Public Relations Practitioner
- Public Relations as a Career Opportunity
- What is Public Relations
- What a Public Relations Person Does Today