What Is 'Public Relations (PR)'

Public relations is the art of managing how information about an individual or company is disseminated to the public.

Breaking Down 'Public Relations (PR)'

Every individual or entity operating in the public eye faces the spread of information about them or their practices to the public. While public relations, or PR, is an industry unto itself, any attempt to portray oneself in a certain way to the public can be considered public relations.

Public Relations and the Corporation

Although not inherent in the definition, PR is often thought of as "spin," with the goal being to present the person, company or brand in the best light possible. PR differs from advertising in that PR attempts to represent a person or brand's image in ways that will appear organic, such as generating good press from independent sources and recommending business decisions that will incur public support. Loosely defined until the mid-twentieth century, PR is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.

PR is essential to any company's success, especially when shares in the company are publicly traded and the value of a share depends on the public's confidence in a company or brand. In addition to handling media requests, information queries and shareholder concerns, PR personnel are frequently responsible for crafting and maintaining the corporation's image. Occasionally, PR professionals also engage in negative PR, or willful attempts to discredit a rival brand or company, although such practices are not in keeping with the industry's code of ethics.

Public Relations in a Crisis

PR also involves managing a company's reputation in the eyes of its customers. In a 2012 PR crisis, restaurant chain Chick-fil-A had to issue emergency statements with respect to its stance on homosexual marriage after a Chick-fil-A executive publicly came out against it. The statement, stressing company neutrality and attempting to bring focus back to Chick-fil-A's strengths as a fast food restaurant, is a good representation of the goals of PR. Chick-fil-A's sales rose subsequently. Most major companies have a PR department or utilize the services of an outside firm.

A company often has multiple publics to impress. Internally, a company will want to present itself as competently operated to their investors and biggest shareholders, which can involve arranging product demonstrations or other events directed towards shareholders. Externally, a company that sells a good or service directly to consumers will want to present a public image that will encourage genuine, lasting brand support, which extends beyond the somewhat knowingly specious goals of advertising. This can involve reassuring customers during a crisis, such as when Target Corp. offered a $10 million settlement to its customers following a 2013 credit card hack in an attempt to restore good faith, or the promotion of a lifestyle that would make the company's product or service attractive. The company also generates PR to attract investors; in this respect, good PR is especially important for startups or rapidly expanding companies.



  1. Investor Relations - IR

    A department, present in most medium to large public companies, ...
  2. Forced Initial Public Offering

    A forced initial public offering is an instance in which a company ...
  3. Press Release

    News that is sent out or released by the company making the news. ...
  4. IRS Publication 17

    IRS Publication 17 is a document published by the Internal Revenue ...
  5. Brand

    A brand is an identifying symbol, mark, logo, name, word and/or ...
  6. Public Good

    A product that one individual can consume without reducing its ...
Related Articles
  1. Small Business

    6 Tips For Spinning A PR Nightmare

    One of the most readily available measures that organizations can employ to either avoid or reduce negative publicity is to aim for transparency.
  2. Small Business

    Public Relations: Offering Businesses A Competitive Advantage

    To maximize the sales potential of any business, a public relations program should be part of the master marketing plan.
  3. Insights

    Yuan Stronger in Q1 ahead of China President Xi's US Visit

    Has the recent appreciation of the yuan been a PR game to keep Trump from tagging China a manipulator?
  4. Investing

    Will Recent Health Scares Hurt Chipotle's 2Q Results?

    Chipotle's recent scandals haven't dampened analysts' second-quarter estimates, but may hurt Q3 earnings.
  5. Investing

    The Pros And Cons Of A Company Going Public

    Small companies looking for growth often use an initial public offering to raise capital. But going public brings both advantages and disadvantages.
  6. Insights

    The Biggest Airline PR Disasters of All Time

    Bad publicity generated by social media has airline PR reps scrambling. Here's a few of the worst PR disasters of all time airlines have had to face.
  7. Small Business

    Why Companies Stay Private

    Many private companies prefer to stay private and find alternate sources of capital. Find out what firms have to gain by eschewing the windfall from a flashy IPO.
  8. Insights

    Did United Have the Right to Force That Guy Off the Plane?

    A quick look at what "denied boarding involuntarily," as the airlines call it, actually means. With luck, not being dragged off the plane bleeding.
  9. Investing

    Why Public Companies Go Private

    Privatization can give management more time to make money for investors, but at what cost?
  10. Small Business

    Get The Most Out Of An Investor Conference

    Read between the lines to get a sense of where a company is really headed.
  1. What are some of the key reasons a large corporation might prefer to remain a private ...

    Understand the reasons why a large corporation would want to remain as private instead of going public through an initial ... Read Answer >>
  2. What is the difference between an IPO and a seasoned issue?

    Learn how companies issue IPO securities when they first go public and seasoned issue shares if they sell more shares in ... Read Answer >>
  3. What's the difference between publicly- and privately-held companies?

    Privately-held companies are owned by the company's founders, management, or private investors. Public companies are owned ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Money Market

    The money market is a segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities ...
  2. Perfect Competition

    Pure or perfect competition is a theoretical market structure in which a number of criteria such as perfect information and ...
  3. Compound Interest

    Compound Interest is interest calculated on the initial principal and also on the accumulated interest of previous periods ...
  4. Income Statement

    A financial statement that measures a company's financial performance over a specific accounting period. Financial performance ...
  5. Leverage Ratio

    A leverage ratio is any one of several financial measurements that look at how much capital comes in the form of debt, or ...
  6. Annuity

    An annuity is a financial product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual, primarily used as an income ...
Trading Center