The constant debate around PR’s definition: What is public relations?

I have been a journalist most of my life. And then a photographer. Both these jobs were pretty simple to explain to people. There was a lot of curiosity about what exactly I did as a journalist, but since almost everyone is familiar with a newspaper, it was simple enough to explain what I did.

However, since I moved to PR, it has become much more challenging to explain what exactly I do. If there was a ever a job that happened primarily in the back-end, that’d be PR. In good PR campaign, they say, you’ll never be able to say it is a campaign.

So what exactly is PR?

For a long while, PR in India was essentially about getting media mentions. Most people thought we waved our magic wand and their name would appear in the paper.

PR is an essential tool of marketing and it is a very critical tool to ensure the correct positioning of the brand.

Advertising definitely has its place in the bigger picture. Advertising can create awareness, aspirational value, get people to take action. That’s probably why advertising can be measured in much more stricter terms. Whereas a lot of what PR achieves is intangible.

PR achieves third-party validation for the company / brand / person. And validation from the media – one of the most esteemed pillars of society. After word-of-mouth branding, media coverage is the best validation a brand / person can get. At the end of the day, it is all about establishing the brand.

There are various intangible, subtle aspects at play in terms of the media coverage alone. The tone of the story, the target audience it is addressing, the key elements of the story and even the publications it appears in, the photographs used – all contribute to a certain perception of the brand. It is the job of the PR agency / consultant to ensure that all these aspects are on the mark.

Now, that’s one KEY aspect. With the advent of new media and evolution of social media, PR has taken a much stronger role in influencing opinions and creating brands.

Influencer Marketing – a task PR Agencies, Social Media Agencies and Advertising Firms believe it is their role to execute – has become an essential part of PR strategies.

Influencer Marketing is about creating awareness and buzz building. Both mandates can fit other marketing verticals as well. However, since it is also about ensuring the right reach, right positioning and brand establishment, PR agencies become critical in execution.


Media coverages and Influencer marketing is the tangible part of PR, even if we cannot truly measure its impact.

A PR’s role is critical in maintaining and enhancing the brand image – there is a lot more work that goes on behind the scenes that is rarely visible to the outsider. Some of these encompass creating connects between the company and various journalists, brands and other entities that could be beneficial to the company, or choosing a brand ambassador.

There is considerable amount of work that goes on behind identifying the right opportunities and selecting the right brand partners for the company to enhance visibility.

These intangibles are constantly functioning in the background, all towards one goal – enhancing the reputation of the brand.

In summary, it could be a direct media coverage, or it could be creating relationships and networks offline, or something more intangible. All of that is just public relations.


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