Cara Mitchell

March 27, 2009

How do you explain PR?

Filed under: Other — by caramitchell @ 12:02 pm
Tags: ,

Many times when I meet new people (especially people older than me), and we have that introductory conversation, it often goes something like this:

PLAIN JANE: So, you’re at Clemson what’s your major?

ME: It’s Communication Studies.

JANE: Oh okay….so what do you want to do with that? 

ME: I’m hoping to work in public relations.

JANE: Oh, okay…So, what exactly is that?

As PR students, and people interested in PR, we know how to define PR. We know all about the multiple definitions our textbooks give, and the multiple views that people have of PR.

But, how do you explain PR?

First of all, I’m a bit shocked by how many people still really don’t know what PR is.  So, how do you explain PR to these people. I was at the beauty salon over spring break and one of the barber’s who worked there and I had this conversation.

Lately whenever a conversation goes  this way I’ve started asking the person to pick any organization or company. And then I explain to them what a public relations practitioner would/could and is supposed to do for that organization.

Through my public relations classes I’ve also learned that it’s also important to emphasize to people who don’t know what PR is, or who have a skewed view of PR that it is not underhanded and all about putting the right spin on a message- when it’s done PRoperly :).


So, how do you do it?

I’m sure that many of us ( especially students) find ourselves in the situations all of the time where we are explaining PR, so how do you find yourself telling others about what PR is? I’m just interested in knowing if there are other people who have a particular way of answering this question (that I seem to be asked all of the time).

Please, share your stories and methods!



  1. I can relate, I still have to deal with this problem. One relatively easy answer is to say that PR is in charge of (managing) communication between an organization and its various publics. Though I’m sure many people will find that confusing, too! 🙂

    Comment by prprofmv — March 29, 2009 @ 11:51 am |Reply

  2. […] is PR? By lfarm226 I recenlty read Cara Mitchell’s blog that addresses the question..”what is PR?” As students in communication studies, […]

    Pingback by What is PR? « PR Thoughts and Insights — March 29, 2009 @ 1:38 pm |Reply

  3. I think this is a fundamental aspect of our major…always trying to explain what it is haha! I have so many thoughts concerning the question you posed and as a challenge from your blog to share what I think PR is, I wrote a blog also! But thanks for putting the issue out there and sharing your own experiences.

    Comment by lfarm226 — March 29, 2009 @ 1:41 pm |Reply

  4. It’s an interesting problem isn’t it, Dr. V 🙂 And thanks Leslie!

    Comment by caramitchell — March 29, 2009 @ 9:01 pm |Reply

  5. I really like the way that you choose to approach this question. I’ve never thought of telling someone to pick an organization and explain PR from that perspective. Sometimes, the people who ask me what PR is are confusing it with HR! I usually start rattling off a vague job description of a PRo when asked that question. Next time, I’ll try your approach. 🙂

    Comment by Madison Fisher — March 29, 2009 @ 9:09 pm |Reply

  6. […] 29, 2009 by madisonelizabethfisher Check out Cara Mitchell’s blog post and my comment about how to describe PR to someone who doesn’t know what it means.  Her […]

    Pingback by Comment on Cara’s Blog « Madison’s Views — March 29, 2009 @ 9:15 pm |Reply

  7. Thanks Madison!

    Comment by caramitchell — March 30, 2009 @ 5:30 pm |Reply

  8. […] How do you explain PR? Cara Mitchell […]

    Pingback by Past week in student posts « PRinciples — March 31, 2009 @ 5:00 pm |Reply

  9. Hey Cara,

    I get asked this all the time! It is very hard to explain in a simple way. Like Dr. V said if you say PR is in charge of managing communication between and organization and its publics, people often look at you with blank faces. So after giving them a fancy definition to blow their minds (haha i’m just kidding) I usually use examples like you said. I give them examples of tasks PR practitioners are in charge of. Ex: media relations, planning and dealing with organization crises, planning events, creating PR plans, etc.

    Comment by amaute — April 1, 2009 @ 2:40 pm |Reply

  10. […] on How do you Explain PR? 1 04 2009 Fellow classmate Cara Mitchell wrote a very interesting post on explaining what PR is.  We have learned many definitions in our […]

    Pingback by Comment on How do you Explain PR? « PR Reflections — April 1, 2009 @ 2:44 pm |Reply

  11. lol! I agree Alyssa, people seem to understand better in terms of the tasks of PR practitioners.

    Comment by caramitchell — April 1, 2009 @ 4:03 pm |Reply

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