Addressing PR’s PR Problem and the search for the answer to ‘What is PR?’

Does anyone else know that slightly perplexed look you get when you tell someone you’re doing a degree/work in PR? When people ask me what I’m studying at university and I tell them ‘Public Relations’ they usually look confused, like I’ve made it up or, if they think they do know what PR is they’re usually wrong and find it difficult to believe that you can actually do a degree in it. It’s a bit ironic really; the PR industry do a poor job at their own public relations.

This has led me to thinking about the definition of PR, my understanding of the industry and its place in the world of business today.  If nothing else, a little bit of research into what is meant by ‘PR’ will at least give us a few well-informed lines to offer the next time someone asks ‘What’s that?’ or suggests that we’ll be selling tickets to events for the rest of our lives.

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines PR as ‘the discipline which looks after reputation’ and emphasises its importance in today’s flooded and competitive business market, where ‘reputation can be a company’s biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge’ (CIPR, 2017).

It’s true; PR is concerned with promoting and protecting a company’s reputation but, I think it’s so much more than that. If we were to describe our profession as simply ‘looking after a company’s reputation’ we’d be selling ourselves short. Public relations encompasses an extensive list of specialities and skills (shown in the table below) and today’s PR professionals have to be able to turn their hand to many of them.

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Taking a look at this list, if I had to sum up PR in just one word I think ‘communication’ is more relevant than ‘reputation’. PR professionals are ‘communicators’ and use expertise in communications to help companies build bilateral relationships with their publics. Better still, we can effectively describe PR as ‘strategic management of communication’ (Ledingham and Bruning, 1998).

For those of us coming to the end of our degree, having already experienced the crazy world of PR while on placement and those of us already working in the industry, we are well aware of the long list of skills we are expected to master (it’s difficult to keep on top of it all)! The problem lies with how the media portrays the industry and subsequently the perceptions (or lack thereof) our friends and family have of the jobs we do.

After all, PR is an invisible industry and it usually hides behind the camera. Albeit with the exceptions of those few portrayals in the public eye; the real people or fictional characters that have somehow come to be the ‘faces’ of PR and shape the way the industry is perceived. I’m thinking Downing Street Press Secretary Alastair Campbell and Sex in the City‘s Samantha Jones, who respectively helped to cement PR’s reputation as one of two evils. Apparently we are either nefarious ‘spin doctors’ accountable for some serious media manipulation or glamorous schmoozers in designer pencil skirts, attending star-studded parties.

Admittedly, there are small elements of truth in both depictions but the real thing isn’t quite as juicy. Yes, we are involved in developing messages and sharing stories with the media to help shape public opinion, and we do organise/attend an event or two in the average working week. But more importantly we are strategic thinkers, effective communicators and extremely hard workers, and to give credit where credit is due, most industries and business sectors could not exist without PR. People are quick to throw around the term, ‘PR stunt’ with ephemeral negativity or affiliate PR with pretty girls promoting nightclubs. But in discovering more about the profession we quickly realise that PR is everywhere and every career field has a PR element related to it. We are living in a noisy world where we are inundated with information every day and as PR pros we help to communicate the messages businesses, organisations, charities, and governments need people to know in order for them to continue to exist.

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The truth is, there is no single all-encompassing answer as to what PR professionals do and each of us have our own unique talents that we bring to the table. But together we manage to uphold a long-serving industry that supports the world of business in helping professionals communicate more effectively with their customers, stakeholders and the public.

Paula McKay is a 4th year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulamckay55, and on Twitter @paulamck55

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Kylie Jenner – PR Nightmare or Publicity Princess?

Whether you love her or love to hate her, it’s impossible to ignore Kylie Jenner’s success. At just twenty years old, she became the youngest celebrity to feature on the Forbes 100 list earlier this year, with a staggering net worth of $41 million (£31 million.)  To put that in context, I’m a year and 8 months older than Kylie and would probably place my own net worth at around minus £20,000, thanks to the Student Loans Company.  That’s a little bit of a bitter pill to swallow!

But how did Kylie manage to go from being the baby of the Kardashian-Jenner Klan, to perhaps the most successful of all the sisters – including Kim?  It would be easy to dismiss Kylie’s rise to the top as being the result of a perfect PR storm.  We often imagine famous celebrities and their multi million pound endorsements being carefully manufactured behind closed doors by scheming PR managers with dollar signs in their eyes.

But when you really think about it, Kylie’s career would send any sane PR practitioner running screaming in terror.  Forget the modern definitions of public relations that talk about ‘managing reputation’ and ‘creating mutually beneficial relationships’ – Kylie’s empire is built on publicity rather than PR, and her success is definitive proof that it’s still a relevant method today.

As the first of Grunig and Hunt’s Four Models of PR, publicity or ‘Press Agentry’ involves purely one-way communication from Press Agents to the public. The aim is to create publicity by any means, including by telling half truths or downright lies.  One of the classic quotes which just about sums up press agentry is, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” which is probably the Kardashian family motto.

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“That’s why her lips are so big – they’re full of bad publicity”

Let’s go back to the rumours that started it all.  In 2014, when a few Insta selfies of Kylie’s lips looking plumper than usual began to make tabloid headlines, the question on everyone’s (normal sized) lips was: has she had fillers?  Kylie denied any surgical enhancement, instead attributing her newly plump pout to using particular shades of MAC lipliners and lipsticks. Many of these shades sold out internationally almost immediately.  I would know, because I was one of the many trying to buy them.

Even after Kylie eventually came to admit to having lip injections, it didn’t stop fans rushing out to buy whatever lip colour she recommended. It also led to lip augmentation topping the list of most popular non-surgical cosmetic treatments in the UK in 2016.  Any product that Kylie Jenner’s lips touched seemed to turn to gold, and perhaps this is where she had her lightbulb moment – what if you could package up Kylie Jenner’s lips and sell them?

And so Kylie Cosmetics was born.  The first batches of Kylie lip kits sold out in minutes, despite conspiracies surfacing online that her $29 lip kits contained a virtually identical formula to US makeup brand Colourpop’s $6 liquid lipsticks.  Videos and pictures comparing eerily similar shades began sprouting up across the internet in a Kylie vs Colourpop showdown.  You may think a PR nightmare like this would be enough to destroy the Kylie Cosmetics brand before it had even begun. But you would be wrong – in the 18 months since, it’s raked in roughly $420 million.

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Just as before with her lip fillers, Kylie eventually addressed the accusations, promising her fans that while they shared the same manufacturers, her products used an “exclusive” formula that she “created herself”.  Yeah, sure, I buy that completely…just like I bought her Holiday Collection and Vacation Collection Lipkits later that year.  (Another classic quote of the press agentry era is, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  I am that sucker.)

So we’ve established that Kylie is clearly gifted at working bad publicity to her own advantage, but earlier this year when possibly the biggest rumour of her career hit the headlines, she showcased just how gifted.  In case you’ve been living underneath a soundproof rock without Wi-Fi for the last few months, in September 2017 TMZ reported that Kylie Jenner is allegedly pregnant with rapper Travis Scott’s baby.  When I first read this news on my Facebook timeline, I gasped so loudly that my sister ran into my room to check if I was okay.

At the time of writing this, almost two months on, Kylie has neither confirmed nor denied that she is with child – but she continues to benefit from daily tabloid coverage as journalists analyse her every prenatal (or not) move.  Meanwhile, posts to her social media accounts appear as normal, promoting her Kylie Cosmetics Autumn collection and new Velvet Lipkit Shades.  Despite hiding possibly one of the biggest events of her life from even her most loyal of fans, her products continue to be snapped up by her followers without hesitation.

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Preggerz? Kylie and BFF Jordyn Woods test out the new Kylie Cosmetics Autumn Collection in a recent Youtube video

Kylie’s career breaks every rule in the PR handbook, with reputation and Two Way Symmetric Models of the communication going out the window long ago.  So how does she continue to be such a success?  As an unashamed Kylie fan, I think that keeping somewhat of a smokescreen between her and her fans is what keeps the Kylie brand thriving.  While many brands and celebrities become increasingly tangible and relatable as they open up every aspect of their lives to us through social media, Kylie Jenner remains an untouchable force in an A List celebrity world far, far away from our own, and by buying a little piece of her exclusive, sold out cosmetic line that she “created the formula for herself”, maybe we feel like we can buy into just a little bit of her untouchable world. Either way, I think Kylie will continue to build her booming career on half truths, downright lies and bad publicity.

And when she releases a Limited Edition Kylie Cosmetics Baby Shower Collection, I’ll still be snapping up all the shades.

 

Una McHugh is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/una-mchugh-a11956106/ and Twitter @unamickq

How To Increase Your PR Job Prospects In Northern Ireland

 

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When considering a career in the Public Relations industry I believe there is a few important questions you must ask yourself before diving into a career in PR. Due to the fast paced, forever changing, and high-pressure environment you will be working in you must have an acquired skill set, hold a great level of determination and drive to prosper within the industry.

 

The first question I would ask myself is…

 What is PR?

Well much to the dismay of many people it does not involve being responsible for promoting nightclubs across social media nor is it attending lavish events and living this glamorous lifestyle that the media portray a job in Public Relations to be.

One of my favourite definitions of Public Relations is one from the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) which states “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public Relations is essentially all about reputation and relationships which is something we touched on in our lecture about PR, Rhetoric and Persuasion in week 2.

 

Am I interested in what is going on in the world around me?

Having an interest in current affairs and reading about what is happening in the environment around you is a very important aspect of a PR practitioners job as they regularly analyse trends and brainstorm campaign ideas with various clients daily. Therefore, being informed and knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around you will set you apart from others.

 

What does a job in PR involve?

A job in PR can be quite varied and diverse depending on the company you work in so it’s hard to specify, although the ability to be a flexible, highly organised individual with the ability to work under pressure and possess excellent written and communication skills is a must.

 

So, with the above questions in mind. How do you go about increasing your chances of employment in this field? I thought I’d share some of my own personal top tips to help anyone that is considering a career in Public Relations!

 

CIPR membership

For an excellent discounted rate of £35 annually for students the Chartered Institute of Public Relations will provide you with endless opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge of PR to help you climb further up your career ladder through providing courses to attend, achieve chartered status and hosting events with likeminded individuals who you will have the opportunity to network with.

 

Follow Key PR Influencers/Blogs

Getting involved in the world of online blogging by reading, commenting and sharing PR related blogs online. Check out PR Week, PR Daily, PR News Online and follow key influencers on Twitter for example @CIPR_UK, @PRstudies, @BobPickard and @pracademy to stay abreast of the latest news!

 

 Work Experience

Get your foot in the door – offer yourself up for paid/unpaid internships in local agencies to get real life experience of the job because when you start a career in PR you will automatically be expected to know how to write a press release, develop a campaign strategy, plan an event, liaise effectively with journalists and so on. This is also a great way to determine whether the job is for you or identify areas in which you would like to specialise.

 

Public Relations Courses

Enhance your CV with a PR qualification – there are plenty to choose from both online and face to face through the PR Academy. These CIPR accredited courses will provide you with working examples to give you a more thorough understanding of the industry.

 

Be Passionate

The ever-changing nature of the PR industry means passion is key to success. Stay abreast of latest news, get involved and prepare to be forever learning!

 

Nicole Hanna is a final year BSc student in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://goo.gl/pLviS8 or on Twitter @NicoleHanna101

Public Relations Vs. Advertising

Public Relations and Advertising are regularly confused and it’s commonly thought they play the same roles within an organisation, despite having different end goals and effects.

PR is a strategic communication process to create a positive reputation for a company in order to gain support and understanding through influencing opinions and behaviours of their publics. Whereas on the other hand, Advertising is the use of paid messages on various media platforms to inform and influence the target audience to make a purchase.

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Free vs. Paid

  • PR: Primarily PR is focused on securing free media to gain exposure for the company and their products/services through use of strategies and tactics. Through using media you have no control of how they portray the company and present the information you provide and they are not required to publish any material you send. Due to this, you are in constant contact with the media and building relationships with them in order to have your press releases used.
  • Advertising: In advertising, companies pay for ad space for specific days and times so they are aware of when they will be ran. Due to this it allows you to have (1) creative control of what goes into the advert; and (2) media control of where the advert appears and when.

Duration

  • PR: You will only submit a press release of a new product launch or an event once so therefore this will only circulate once, as the editor will not re-run it but, you can send each press release to a number of journalists who will each write the story in their own styles.
  • Advertising: Due to paying for the advertising space, the advert will run for the duration which you have purchased.

Credibility

  • PR: The public often find third party sources such as newspapers more credible as it is perceived to be an informative source; this method does not encourage someone to make a purchase but it creates a positive reputation for the brand and manufacturer.
  • Advertising: Often the target audience will look and read an advert with scepticism, as they know the purpose of the advert is to influence them to buy a product or service.

Audience

  • PR: In order to have an editor run a press release or cover your event, you must create content that hooks both them and the target audience.
  • Advertising: Your advertisement is geared towards your target audience, making use of buzzwords in order to influence and motivate the target audience.

 

Lauren Sharkey is a 4th year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @lsharkey_37 or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/lauren-sharkey-25776ab0/