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When public relations expert David Hlavac came into a classroom of 14 high school students and said, “Raise your hand if you know what public relations is,” only two people did so. I was no exception.
We were then instructed to explain our perception of public relations. I was third in line, and ten seconds before my turn, I quickly pulled out my phone and searched “public relations” on Safari. Thankfully, I got a quick, brief explanation, and when it was my turn, I gave the same definition I searched.
I usually know at least a little about everything around me, but I was so embarrassed with myself that I did not know what this profession meant. Although I cannot say I know it proficiently now, I am a lot better off than I was before Hlavac’s eloquent presentation about everything public relations — or “PR.”
As defined by the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Still don’t understand? Basically, PR agencies promote companies or individuals, and act as a “filter through which all information about a company or organization flows, and to whom the audience is disseminating,” as Hlavac, who works at Bellmont Partners in Edina, put it.
“We research a client, we come up with messaging, we take a position, and we defend it,” he said.
Sounds a lot like a lawyer to me. However, public relations practitioners also do what journalists do. They report, talk to people, and write — a lot!
“We have to make sure what we are asked to do will truly be newsworthy,” Hlavac said. “We always tell clients we cannot conjure news out of thin air.”
PR is also frequently mixed up with marketing, Hlavac said. But while marketing is aimed at trying to sell you the product or service, public relations promotes public understanding of the product or service.
“Our goal is to get people to talk about your (the client’s) product,” Hlavac said.