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Public relations is fantastically challenging to define. There must be hundreds of definitions of PR, all of which are correct in specific circumstances. Take this definition from the PRCA:
“Public Relations,or 'PR', is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.”
It’s not wrong, but it feels quite ‘one way’ or ‘asymmetrical’ in more academic language. A huge number of PR professionals will agree with this definition, many will disagree and point to the fact that PR isn’t just about a company trying to change public attitudes, it’s also about the company changing itself in response to public attitudes.
The point here is that PR means many different things to many different PR professionals, because the practice of PR itself is vast and constantly evolving. That’s one of the (many) reasons why it’s such an exciting career.
Quite aside from the hundreds of vertical specialisms you might choose to focus on at different times in your career, there are dozens of horizontal specialisms in which you can develop your skills and even specialize in. These range from media relations to crisis communications, strategic communications planning to social media. And there are more emerging all the time.
For example after many years as the preserve, predominantly, of public sector PR professionals behavioural science is emerging as a fascinating discipline in the broader PR industry. PR practitioners with skills in these areas are in significant demand. The same is true for data and analytics, ESG, automation and AI.
Here is a (necessarily) incomplete list of horizontal PR specialisms (disclaimer: some of these are on the ‘edges’ of PR practice and are sometimes thought of as distinct disciplines – I take a very broad view of PR!):
- Analyst relations
- Behavioural science
- Content creation
- Content marketing
- Corporate communications
- Crisis communications
- Data and analytics
- Internal communications (includes employee advocacy)
- Investor relations
- Issues management
- Media relations
- Messaging and positioning
- Partnership marketing
- Public affairs
- Social media
- Strategic communications planning
- Virtual events
Explore the chapters:
This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations