PR Library

The building blocks of understanding public relations programs

The business of communications is built on key concepts and terms. Expand your understanding of the industry’s parameters and purpose with these definitions.


Paid communication; information placed in a communication delivery vehicle by an identified sponsor that pays for time or space. Advertising is a controlled method of delivering messages and gaining media placement.


A product, service or concept that is publicly distinguished from other products, services or concepts so that it can be easily communicated and usually marketed. A brand name is the name of the distinctive product, service or concept.


The process of creating and/or disseminating the brand name. Branding can be applied to the entire corporate identity as well as to individual product and service names.

Community Relations

An area of public relations with responsibilities for building relationships with constituent publics such as schools, charities, clubs and activist interests of the neighborhoods or metropolitan area(s) where an organization operates. Community relations involves dealing and communicating with citizens and groups within an organization’s operating area.

Controlled Communication Channels

Communication channels, media and tools that are under direct control of the sender. Examples include paid advertising, newsletters, brochures, some types of emails, organizational websites and blogs, leaflets, organizational broadcasts and podcasts, intranets, teleconferences and videoconferences, meetings, speeches and position papers.


Advising management concerning policies, relations and communications.

Crisis Communication

Protecting and defending an individual, company or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation. These challenges can involve legal, ethical or financial standing.

Employee Relations

Activities designed to build sound relationships between an organization and its employees. Employee relations is a critical element in fostering positive opinions and behaviors of employees as ambassadors for the organization.

Financial Relations

An aspect of public relations responsible for building relationships with investor publics including shareholders/stockholders, potential investors, financial analysts, the financial markets (such as the stock exchanges and commodities exchanges), and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Also known as investor relations or shareholder relations.

Government Relations

An aspect of relationship building between an organization and government at local, state, and/or national levels, especially involving flow of information to and from legislative and regulatory bodies. The goal often is to influence public policy decisions compatible with the organization’s interests. Government relations involves dealing and communicating with legislators and government agencies on behalf of an organization.

Issues Management

The proactive process of anticipating, identifying, evaluating and responding to public policy issues that affect organizations and their publics now and in the future.


The specialized area of public relations that fosters and maintains relations with a government or its officials for the primary purpose of influencing legislation and regulation.

Marketing Communications

A combination of activities designed to sell a product, service or idea. These activities are designed to maintain consistent brand messaging across traditional and nontraditional communication channels. These channels include advertising, collateral materials, interactive communications, publicity, promotion, direct mail, trade shows and special events. Sometimes called “integrated marketing communication.”

Media Relations

Mutually beneficial associations between publicists or public relations professionals and journalists as a condition for reaching audiences with messages of news or features of interest (publicity). The function includes both seeking publicity for an organization and responding to queries from journalists about the organization. Maintaining up-to-date lists of media contacts and a knowledge of media audience interests are critical to media relations.

Proactive Public Relations

Taking the initiative to develop and apply public relations plans to achieve measurable results toward set goals and objectives.


Activities designed to win publicity or attention, especially the staging of special events to generate media coverage. Promotional activities are designed to create and stimulate interest in a person, product, organization or cause.


Any group of people tied together by some common factor or interest. Public relations practitioners identify and foster relationships with publics essential to the success or failure of organizations or clients.

Reputation Management

Systematic actions and messages designed to influence what people in key publics think about an organization. Reputation management has long been a function of public relations and is often a priority in crisis management. The increased use of the internet and related social networks has given added urgency to the practice. The immediate and anonymous nature of the web increases the risk of communications that can damage an organization’s reputation. Online reputation management is a growing specialized segment of public relations.

Special Events

Stimulating an interest in a person, product or organization by means of a focused “happening.” Activities designed to interact with publics and listen to them.

Uncontrolled Communications Channels

Uncontrolled communications channels refer to the message-delivery methods that are not under direct control of the company, organization or sender of messages. These channels include newspapers and magazines, radio and television, external websites, externally produced blogs and social media commentary, and externally developed news stories.

Public Affairs

A specialized area of public relations that builds and maintains mutually beneficial governmental and local community relations.