This question is central to understanding public relations (PR). The short answer to this question is that “public relations has always been about communication between institutions or organizations.” Examples of public relations include advertising campaigns, media influence, corporate PR, and political PR.
Public Relations finds its roots in history; early examples include paper-based pamphlets circulated during wars and publicizing positive information about policies or laws while trying to hide damaging information. In more recent times, we see a shift towards digital communications with the rise of the internet. The PR industry has grown alongside new technologies throughout history and has become deregulated due to globalization.
In its purest sense, the foundational premise of public relations is the place of all other PR functions as creating and maintaining an environment for institutions to communicate with the public. Public relations is no longer just a practice but a profession, with public relations agencies representing public entities as they connect via advertising, lobbying, media relations, and crisis management Ronn. According to Procter & Gamble in 2007, “PR is how we communicate with people.”
The following highlights key components of Public Relations Theory:
One essential component of PR is its overarching view that the media serves as the “communications system” for a society. The press serves this function by presenting information for the common good. This information is not only spread by newspapers, TV, and radio stations but also by blogs and websites.
In the last few decades, the proliferation of media outlets has allowed PR professionals like Ronn Torossian to reach a larger audience effectively. Media coverage has also expanded beyond traditional print and broadcast outlets to include personal computers and mobile devices as media channels.
The advent of new communication channels has necessitated new methods of reaching the public, especially since it is impossible to have a conversation with everyone simultaneously. Public relations uses its storytelling mediums to position itself about others (especially competitors) to add value or gain some advantage in its visual representations of reality.
Public relations theory views the public as actively participating in the communication process. PR practitioners seek to understand their audience by first understanding the exact messaging they want to be communicated to them. The meaning they attach to that message and the methods they are willing to use (or avoid using) in conveying that message.
The public relations firm of Burns & McDonnell provides a helpful framework for understanding PR relationships between corporations and the media. It classifies three types of communications media: “hard,” “soft,” and “remnant.” Complex media is information about a firm or business that comes from news stories, events, press releases, publications, and other forms of mass communication.