Before I became interested in public relations, I heard many ideas and perceptions on how different people defined PR.
One misconception about PR that I fell victim to myself is how it differed from journalism. I knew there was a difference between the two, but I could not tell you exactly what that difference was. In journalism, a key factor is being objective with your writing in order to allow the audience to develop their own opinion. PR practitioners still value presenting accurate information, but one of their goals is to persuade the audience to favor their client. In terms of audience alone, journalism is designed for the masses, while PR is much more geared towards specific demographics.
Some people often mistake advertising and PR as being one in the same. They substitute the terms “advertising,” “publicity,” and “public relations” interchangeably. But, advertising has an equally different definition from PR as journalism does. The Corridor Business Journal provides a good explanation between the two. “Advertising is a paid placement with a controlled message. Those purchasing the advertising control virtually all aspects — the message, appearance, size and timing. Consumers know when they are reading an advertisement that they’re trying to be sold a product or service.”
This differs from PR because PR campaigns use persuasive communication often via a third party. The Corridor Business Journal also provides a great explanation of a campaign’s purpose: “There is no obligation by the media to use information submitted via news releases or media kits. Because any resulting coverage is free, there is no control over the content, timing or placement.”
These misconceptions are simply a result of a lack of source of information. Whom can the average person ask to explain what the difference is? On the surface, these fields, while interrelated, seem interchangeable, so it is understandable that people are often confused about the purpose of each.