Public Relations IS NOT “Marketing That Builds Credibility”

As if it isn’t bad enough that the majority of the PR industry doesn’t understand what public relations really is now Forbes magazine is getting in on it. When I read a piece on their website last week I figured it would focus on media relations and publicity, but I wasn’t prepared for what this piece said. The author, Kate Harrison, sums up my industry with the explanation, “In other words, PR is marketing that builds credibility.

It wouldn’t be so bad, but this sentence was immediately after the PRSA definition, which describes PR as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” I mean, how hard is it to understand? Public relations is about relationships; marketing is about getting them to take action; and publicity is about communicating information to an audience without the intent to either build a relationship with them or get them to take action.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The PR industry predominantly sells publicity – essentially media pitching – which I’m trying to address by educating entrepreneurs about how PR should really work and why what they have been told constitutes public relations isn’t.  The irony of an industry that an industry that is supposed to be about effective communication is unable to communicate accurately what it is, or explain the value of what it does is not lost on me.  But when a supposed authority like Forbes can’t get it right, what hope is there?

My industry is slowly and painfully committing suicide and it’s being helped by every article that misrepresents it.  So, come on Forbes – how about setting an example and making sure that when your writers talk about my industry they get their facts right?  I’ll be only too happy to help them – public relations for entrepreneurs is about building mutually beneficial relationships with key audiences.  Not maketing. Or Publicity.

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