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How Do You Explain to Uncle Larry What PR Is?
By: Elizabeth Friedland
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Thanksgiving is almost upon us, meaning mounds of buttery mashed potatoes, plotting a Black Friday shopping strategy, and trying to explain to your family — for the millionth time — just what it is you do for a living.
PR professions don’t have it easy in that regard. A doctor, a lawyer, a salesman — even the most senile great-grandmother (or most hyperactive grade-schooler) understands what these people do. Yet because a PR professional’s job description can vary wildly depending on the day (or hour, for that matter), sometimes it’s hard to even define the job ourselves, much less explain it to those without any knowledge of the industry. Movies and TV don’t make it any easier, often portraying PR professionals as either VIP hostesses at cheesy nightclubs or sleazy “spin doctors” working feverishly to cover up a scandal.
Even the country’s leading professional PR organization, The Public Relations Society of America, doesn’t know what PR is, exactly. Their attempt at explaining the industry resulted in, “Public relations helps an organization and its public adapt mutually to each other.” Come again? Sounds like typical PR gobbledy-gook jargon.
To help clarify things, the PRSA just launched a new campaign to try to explain just what is PR professionals do. The last time the group tried to define PR was 1982, before a large majority of people reading this (including myself!) were even born. Currently, they’re hoping that crowdsourcing can help them define public relations in the twenty-first century. (prdefinition.prsa.org)
So, if the Public Relations Society of America is struggling to define PR, how in the world can you explain it to Uncle Larry? Here’s a quick explanation, in layman’s terms, that might serve you well at the dinner table.
“It’s my job to talk to the public about my clients, and to help my clients listen to what the public is saying about them. My ultimate goal is to get positive attention for my clients, which may mean securing news stories, getting people to talk us up on social media, planning cool events, or anything else creative I can come up with. And can you pass the pie?”

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About the Author
Elizabeth Friedland in Senior Digital Strategist, specializing in PR, at Hirons Advertising & Public Relations. To learn more than you ever wanted to know about her, visit www.elizabethfriedland.com.
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