By Maddy Fuller
Coming into Ohio State I was a data analytics major, with not much knowledge of the business and professional world, and the different avenues that can be explored. After a computer science engineering class I quickly changed my major into the Fisher College of Business. I was thrown into the business world with little understanding of the different careers that were available to explore. In high school I never focused on being prepared for a college career concentrated on business. So, I came in not prepared for the abundance of different avenues: accounting, finance, marketing, and human resources, to name a few. Eventually I fell into marketing, and one of my friends told me that I should join The PRactice. I joined without any full understanding of what the club was or what they even did. Public relations was a term I had heard before but I did not know the specifics of what public relations was or how it worked. There were two misconceptions I had about public relations: PR is advertising and people in PR write press releases for new products and when companies are in trouble. However, after one semester in The PRactice, I have quickly learned that there is substantially more to public relations.
For some reason, I assumed that public relations and advertising were the same thing. For the most part I was right, they do have characteristics that are similar. They both help build brand identity and they target certain audiences. However, what I have learned is that they differ in their goals, control, and credibility. The goal of public relations is to build brand awareness and reputation, but advertising success is measured in generated sales. The control of the communication varies from public relations and advertising. When a company buys an ad they are deciding how it looks, what it will say, where it goes, etc. When they are working in public relations your identity comes from the media and how they portray you, which is harder to work with. Lastly, both give a company credibility, however advertising deals with paid visibility, while public relations deals with earned visibility. Consumers aren’t necessarily going to trust an advertisement, but because public relations messages are sent through a trust third party, the media, they are more likely to trust the message being communicated.
As far as I understood, public relations consisted of press releases for new products or when a company was in trouble. Press releases are an important part of the tactics used by public relations teams, however they are just one part of the bigger strategy. To put it simply, press releases for new products are necessary to get the word out about a new product. Press releases are also needed for when a company gets in trouble, but what I learned is that much of crisis management happens behind the scenes. A public relations team’s job is to prevent, predict and plan for damaging awareness of a company. The misconception that PR is just press releases denies the occupation of its diversity. PR consists of reputation management, crisis management, content marketing, launching products, influencer and ambassador teams, and so much more.
At the end of the day, I have learned more about public relations in one semester being a part of The PRactice than I have in the 19 years before this. Public relations is the overarching idea of influencing, engaging, and building long lasting relationships with its consumer to construct a positive image of a company. However, how companies execute that strategy differs. Companies are at different levels of production, they are in different industries, and they are all building different perceptions of their companies. Because of the differences between companies, public relations is a more than one job, it consists of different tasks, positions, and functions.