What is Public Relations?

The formal practice of what is now commonly referred to as “public relations” dates to the early 20th century. Since that time, public relations has been defined in myriad ways, the definition often evolving alongside public relations’ changing roles and advances in technology.

The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of “engagement” and “relationship building.” In 1982, PRSA adopted the following definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”A more modern definition of public relations was drafted several decades later, a definition that still stands today: 

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”


At its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging, and building a relationship with key stakeholders across numerous platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization. Public relations also encompasses the following:

Anticipating, analyzing, and interpreting public opinion, attitudes, and issues that might have an impact, for good or ill, on the operations and plans of the organization.

Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action, and communications – including crisis communications — taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.

Below are some of the disciplines/functions within PR:

  • Corporate Communications
  • Crisis Communications
  • Executive Communications
  • Internal Communications
  • Investor Relations Communications
  • Marketing Communications
  • Integrated Marketing/Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Media Relations
  • Content Creation
  • Events
  • Social Media
  • Multimedia
  • Reputation Management
  • Speechwriting
  • Brand Journalism