What Public Relations Means Today

Public Relations is a practice that has evolved continually since its inception. It started with the days of print-only earned media coverage and articles. Today, it’s a much more broadly defined discipline that engages target audiences across myriad channels.

How we do what we do will constantly change, as new digital platforms and consumer behaviors emerge. Here is what “Public Relations” means today, as defined by SHIFT leadership.

Today, PR is no longer about firing content into the ether and hoping for quantifiable outcomes to occur organically. It’s about understanding what you want to say — and making sure it’s relevant against broader topics and trends — and ensuring that the message is received by your intended audience via their preferred channels — not yours.

Alan Dunton, Managing Director, Technology

Public Relation’s job today is to make brands relevant to the current culture and social climate. It’s not just to drive product awareness through earned media, but to strategize comprehensive communications campaigns that put a company squarely into the middle of conversations its audiences care about.   

Amanda Munroe, Senior Vice President, Technology

While we will always be tasked with promoting our clients’ products and services, now more than ever we are asked to help companies determine what they stand for and how they can give back – and to build their reputation around that.

Annie Perkins, Manager Director, Consumer and Health

For me, PR is all about helping businesses effectively communicate with the audiences that are most important to them – customers, prospects, investors and industry influencers. PR can take on many forms these days, but for me, the one constant is the importance of having a deep understanding of these core audiences’ motivations and challenges and reaching them across the channels they’re most likely to engage with. This has proven to be true whether the goal is to build awareness for an emerging startup or maintain the strong reputation of an established player.

Dave Heffernan, Vice President, Technology

Public Relations has evolved from just getting coverage to ensuring that businesses and brands are a meaningful part of key conversation across all channels. Traditional news outlets are thinning staff and upstart news outlets are splintering audiences. Trying to move the needle through an earned only program has become increasingly harder. PR practitioners need to become proficient in positioning companies front-and-center across the entire PESO (paid, earned, social, owned) model.

Justin Finnegan, Vice President, Technology

PR today is more critical — and expansive — than ever before. 2020 showed us that, as consumers, we have become very selective in how we engage with brands, where we want to spend our time and who deserves our spending power. As a practice, PR is unrestricted by channel or tactic. It’s an endless array of strategy that fuels the way we retain consumer trust and loyalty through compelling storytelling, immersive experiences and breakthrough content that can ignite the soul and leave lasting impacts.

Meg Gaffney, Vice President, Consumer

How we do what we do will continue to change, but as public relations practitioners we know we must be constantly ready to imagine and execute new ways of connecting brands and businesses with the people who matter to their success.

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