Public Relations: The Profession That Is Accepted But Not Understood #PRisDead

By November 5, 2015Blog, PR Tips

In the 1989 edition of Introduction to Public Relations, Sam Black, former secretary general of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), stated:

“Public Relations has become generally accepted as an important element of business, government and all aspects of everyday life. Accepted does not necessarily mean understood.” 


These words still apply today as many who seek and engage the services of public relations practitioners cannot firmly describe the main function of public relations or how it works. Most can see output, but how many can link PR work to outcomes?

Generally, there are many questions that get people – even those in PR – confused. One of such is the question of function.

What are the Functions of PR?

Defining PR as the profession that deals with just publicity and promotion is inadequate. As a matter of fact, scholars like Sam Black have put forward important functions that provide proper insight into what Public Relations is all about:

  1. Counselling based on understanding of human behaviour

Public relations is the mediator between organizations and their stakeholders. To serve both parties effectively, it is imperative that PR practitioners understand how different publics think. It is also important to know expectations of the different parties.

  1. Analyzing future trends and predicting their consequences

Habit mapping, trendspotting and other processes of behaviour analysis are means through which PR pros can help organizations discover new ways of interacting with consumers. This function is also useful for delineating the consequences and advantages of new means of communication.

  1. Research into public opinion, attitudes and expectations and advising on necessary action

Research is a very significant tool in Public relations. As it is often said, change is the most constant thing in life. The situation and statistics for yesterday are not the same as today.



According to VentureBeat, $720 million was spent on mobile video in 2013 while in 2014, more than half of that amount ($1.5 million) was spent on the same thing.

What changed here? Enlightenment.

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  1. Establishing and maintaining two-way communication based on truth and full information

What is a brand without its consumers? What is the public without goods? Both are mutually beneficial to each other and play important roles in their existence. Hence, ensuring smooth communication and weaving memorable experiences at points of interactions is a crucial function of Public Relations.

  1. Preventing conflict and misunderstandings

In cases of conflict or disasters, the first point of call is usually the Public Relations department. The PR department is responsible for identifying issues, analyzing them, setting priorities in planning and strategy and implementing clever programmes of actions that will soothe a critical situation.

  1. Promoting mutual respect and social responsibility

PR pros search for opportunities to build understanding, empathy, acceptance and loyalty between its clients and publics.

  1. Harmonizing the private and the public interest

Public Relations is not one-sided. It cares for the brand as much as it cares for the public. Both parties must go home happy having gotten a good bargain.

  1. Promoting goodwill with staff, suppliers and customers

Internal stakeholders are as important as external stakeholders. PR identifies the need for mutual understanding among staff, shareholders, suppliers, employers and other key stakeholders within an organization.

  1. Improving industrial relations

The most popular and respected organizations in the world have public relations to thank for their reputation. This feat was not achieved suddenly. Lobbying, corporate social responsibility, quality control, environmental scanning (which are essential parts of PR) play an important role in ensuring organizations stand out in their industries.

  1. Attracting good personnel and reducing labour turnover
  1. Promotion of goods and services

Publicity and advertising aid the job of Public Relations.

  1. Maximizing profitability

Prioritizing and implementing the most cost effective programme of action is another function of Public Relations.

  1. Projecting a corporate identity

Consistent and strategic communication of what an organization stands for projects an identity. How the public absorbs this identity becomes the corporate image.


Public Relations is more than the business of looking good and being in the news. Understanding its functions will help the society use it better.


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