Understanding the Buzz: What is Public Relations?

Working in the advertising industry for the past several years has helped me discover many new things about business, marketing and public perception in general.

Working in the advertising industry for the past several years has helped me discover many new things about business, marketing and public perception in general. One fun fact that my PR cohorts and I have realized is that many people don’t understand what public relations really is or what PR professionals do on a day-to-day basis. Most conversations unravel as follows:

“So, where are you working these days?”

“I’m a public relations specialist at ANDERSON Advertising & Public Relations in Scottsdale.”

“Awesome! So, you help write those clever billboard ads we see off the side of the freeways?”


“Oh, so you buy the advertising space for the billboards and the ads we see in magazines for your clients?”


*Confused, thoughtful pause* – “You write the stories for your clients that run in newspapers and magazines, right?”

*Sigh* – “Still no.”

So let us clear up the “buzz” around public relations. In a nutshell, a public relations specialist is responsible for placing their clients in the spotlight by obtaining free editorial coverage for them. This means we secure stories with members of the press by pitching ideas and sharing news releases with reporters and producers across various media outlets. These individuals then report the latest and greatest achievements, promotions or events that our clients are responsible for with their observant audiences. Aside from daily writing and pitching, we are responsible for creating engaging campaign ideas, “PR Stunts” and newsworthy events to keep our clients relevant and top-of-mind with the public. Of course, we have to handle the occasional PR crisis and orchestrate an event or two, but overall, the main goal of a public relations specialist is to build up their clients’ reputations to ultimately drive sales and create a heightened awareness of their clients’ businesses.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Establishing and maintaining relationships with experts in the media industry is one of the most valuable tools a PR professional can have under their belt. The average news desk, reporter or producer receives more than a hundred emails per day and the best way to ensure that your pitches don’t get overlooked is by establishing name recognition. Oftentimes, it takes years to make connections with busy media professionals, but once they can put a name to a face, your odds of garnering press for your client greatly increase. That’s why in the marketing industry it’s not always what you know, but who you know. Two equally talented public relations professionals at two different agencies can pitch very similar stories on any given day; yet, the one whose name rings a bell with the recipient is the one who will score the coveted media coverage for their client. What does this mean for someone starting out in the industry? Go to events, mingle, make friends, go to business luncheons, mixers and network as much as you can.

Tips for “so much winning.”

First: “Keep it 100.”

In the “fake news” era, where we must take everything we hear with a grain of salt, one of the most valuable pieces of advice for anyone starting out in the PR industry is to provide your sources with 100% factual and relevant information. Do not take the liberty of embellishing facts to make something seem more impressive than it really is. The minute a reporter realizes you’ve lied to them is the minute you’ve burned a bridge with that publication for the rest of your career. Be sure to read through all press releases with a fine-toothed comb before sending them out for coverage consideration. There is a tremendous difference between using engaging adjectives when describing how magnificent your client is, versus changing numbers and data to secure a story based on fabrication.

Second: “In a world full of horses, be a unicorn.”

With any relationship, people appreciate authenticity. This is the same in public relations– make sure to always be yourself in your interactions with everyone you cross paths with. Again, reporters are sifting through hundreds of emails and dozens of voicemails, so make yours stand out. Feel free to be funny and even think outside the box with your subject lines. At the end of the day, someone who takes a unique approach to delivering a pitch will be more successful than the person who sends out a bland, cookie-cutter email that will inevitably get deleted or cause the readers’ eyes to glaze over.

Third: “The squeaky wheel gets oiled.”

Interns and those new to the wonderful world of PR will feel like they’re annoying the people they’re pitching by continually following up via emails, phone calls and the occasional Bat-Signals, but rest assured, it is necessary to be persistent. Unfortunately, with the influx of information being thrown at reporters and producers on a daily basis, repetition is key. I’ve been told that occasionally media professionals will simply delete their entire inboxes every morning before starting their days. If they hadn’t read your message by that point, there’s no chance of it ever being seen now, UNLESS you continue to follow up and opt for other ways of being heard. There have been many times my colleagues and I have reached out to a producer pitching the same story three or four times before receiving a positive response and sealing the deal. So, feel free to be tenacious and don’t worry about your incessant desire to be heard. That is what you are being paid to do.

Quick Recap.

Today’s media climate is incredibly different than what previous generations of PR professionals were accustomed to. In 2018, it is crucial to be unique, make valuable connections and to always keep it real in order to enjoy a prosperous career in public relations. At ANDERSON we strive to be relentless unicorns when it comes to achieving the best PR results for our clients.

If you are looking for a dedicated public relations team to generate creative strategies to take your business to the next level, reach out to us at info@anderson-adv.com or learn more on our website at anderson-adv.com.