What are public relations?

We explain what public relations or PR are, their functions, objectives and strategies. In addition, examples of successful campaigns with ideas.

What are public relations?

Public relations (often abbreviated as PR) are certain types of corporate communications that, coordinated and sustained over time, seek to strengthen the strategic links between a company or organization , and its various stakeholders.

In other words, it is a communication management that seeks to maintain the relations between the organization and its external partners in the best possible state . To do this, it provides information, exchange opportunities and encourages the so-called loyalty (preferential customer relationship).

Public relations constitute a set of different types of strategies . Its objective is to promote, sell, promote or publicize the interests of the organization to its clientele and the general public, in a planned way. Therefore, go to techniques and concepts of marketing and design , but also of sociology , psychology , politics and journalism.

Public relations is also a discipline and an autonomous field of study . The Austrian-American publicist and inventor Edward Barnays (1891-1995) invented them at the beginning of the 20th century. Its importance during the Great Depression that began in 1929 was significant, as a mechanism to claim business and its contribution to the economic system.

Public Relations Definition

According to some authors and students of the subject, we can define public relations as:

  • “… A characteristic managerial function that helps establish and maintain lines of mutual communication , understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its public; It involves the management of problems or issues, helps managers stay informed and sensitive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of managers to serve the public interest; it helps managers stay ahead of changes and use them effectively by understanding them as a warning system to anticipate trends »(Rex Harlow).
  • “… The managerial function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on which its success or failure depends” (Scott Cutlip and Allen Conter).
  • “… The administrative function that evaluates public attitudes , identifies the policies and procedures of an organization with the public interest, and executes an action and communication program to generate public understanding and acceptance” (John Marston).

Functions of public relations with objectives

The interests of public relations are very diverse and distinct, but in broad strokes we can summarize them as follows:

Manage corporate or organizational identity . This means that the PRs ensure that the different departments of the company handle the same language and project a unified image of the same for the public. Which implies:

  • Management of external communications , that is, everything that comes out of the organization and is consumed by the client or by the general public.
  • Management of internal communications , that is, the way in which the parts of the company communicate with each other.
  • Management of public opinion , such as press follow-up, strategic consultations, Internet and social media management , strategic marketing, etc.

Corporate social responsibility . The organization’s commitment to the community of which it is a part is known, not only as a way of projecting a positive image of its work and its vision and mission , but also as a mechanism to return part of society to society. resources that the company obtains from it.

Organization of events . PRs often specify their objectives through the production and organization of various types of events, fairs, invitations, celebrations, etc.

Importance of public relations

public relations starbucks
PR can spread ethical practices, such as buying Starbucks coffee.

Public relations is an inseparable part of the business and organizational exercise today. They can be a way to bring companies closer to their public, or a mechanism to “humanize” some large corporations whose operation is more like a machine.

Of course, this may involve ethically questionable work , such as washing the face of companies whose economic activity is irresponsible or harmful. In other cases, it  may be part of the communication strategies of a positive organization that would otherwise not be as well known and would not receive sufficient support and sufficient visibility.

Types of public relations


Internal public relations are those that are in charge of communicating and strengthening the image of the company, its institutional policies, as well as its philosophy and the set of values ​​on which the objective of the organization is based.


External public relations are those that are oriented to make known the image, values, philosophy and objectives by which a person, company or organization is distinguished in the face of a specific audience.

For this reason, external public relations strategically manage their communication with other companies or institutions, public or private, as well as with the media and the general public.


Negative public relations are those whose objective is to discredit or promote the bad image of a rival or competitor in the public eye, whether it is a company, an organization or a political contender. In this sense, it is especially very common in the field of politics.


The plan and general design of the PR and PR of an organization or company is known as a public relations strategy, that is, the set of tools and strategies that it prefers or chooses to implement , in the face of a target audience and a social and social context. Commercial determined.

According to Edward Bernays himself, founder of the PR, such a project should take into account the following steps:

  • Define business objectives for the public.
  • Extract from them a set of attainable goals in the short, medium and long term.
  • Investigate and understand the target audience as much as possible.
  • Establish a strategy related to all of the above.
  • Schedule the actions that make up the strategy over time.
  • Execute the schedule of activities based on schedule.

Examples of public relations recognized campaigns

wendys public relations
The Wendy’s food chain is famous for its loyalty strategies.

Some successful and internationally recognized PR campaigns are those of:

  • Starbucks . The famous coffee chain has long been a spokesperson for a message of responsible consumption , which goes through the purchase of coffee beans from local farmers in Africa, Asia and America, instead of large chains of raw materials , as well as the reduction of non-biodegradable materials in their processes. This is explained to us as soon as we enter their premises and it is even part of their decoration.
  • Wendy’s . Focusing its link with users on social networks, and especially on Twitter, this well-known hamburger and fast food transnational company became known for its willingness to reward users for their loyalty and collaboration with the content on this social network, getting to give a year vouchers for hamburgers if a message from its users reached a certain amount of replicas.
  • Nike . Although old-fashioned, the communications and marketing campaign of the American sports shoe company Nike was very famous at the time for its association with the world of basketball and its sponsorship of great stars like Michael Jordan, under the slogan of Just do it (“Just do it”). This is, perhaps, one of the most successful corporate image and advertising campaigns in the West in the 1990s.

Public relations ideas

Company , Marketing

Small companies, entrepreneurs, freelancers … do we need public relations?

Yes , we more than anyone, because we are both managers and promoters. And because public relations (PR) allows us to extend our closest network of contacts beyond conventional advertising, usually by just investing time .

Some public relations tips to create a favorable image and climate, both internally and externally:

  1. A good public relations campaign doesn’t just happen, it takes time, effort, and planning. What will we do at carnival, and in summer, and at Christmas …? You can’t foresee tooooo much, but you can draw the basic lines and avoid the last minute rush. Make lists of the basics for each action (like when we prepare the shopping list, or the list before packing for a trip).
  2. Organize events, talks … It is a good opportunity to make new contacts, to create your own space to launch the message and reinforce your brand.
  3. Participate in fairs: keep in mind that the stand, the brochures … everything communicates.
  4. Participate in meetings, networking events …: remember that you must prepare in advance what you are going to communicate, to be able to define what you offer in the time it burns a match.
  5. If you have capital, you can sponsor and sponsor sports and cultural activities, spaces in the media …
  6. It may be helpful to join professional associations and other groups.
  7. Get in touch with opinion leaders in your sector . They are your free speaker.
  8. Deal with the media (we’ll talk about it in later posts).
  9. If you have contact with the customer, smile and be helpful. Do you know someone who has done the Camino de Santiago, or who has been to New York? They always tell you how friendly and helpful the people are. Why don’t we apply it, what do we lose? (More tips on customer service ).
  10. If the environment allows it (like, for example, a night restaurant for young people) use humor . Not only in personal treatment, but also in brochures, billboards, posters, walls … and even the workers’ T-shirts and the purchase receipt. Everything communicates!
  11. In the treatment of you to you, and if the environment allows it, take notes. It is a way to show yourself interested. And keep your mobile away!
  12. When dealing with you, remember the name of your interlocutors.
  13. Patience, utility … are always essential ingredients.
  14. And don’t forget to evaluate the results and thank those who have helped you along the way.

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