How to define public relations

Photo Credit: vladdythephotogeek via Compfight cc

By Amanda Margozzi
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

“Where are you working nowadays?” That’s the first question I am typically asked when I am at a party with family or friends I haven’t seen in a while.

When I find myself in this particular circumstance (and as a recent college graduate, that’s pretty often), I happily respond by saying that I have started working as an account coordinator for a tech-focused public relations agency.

Cue the response of a completely blank stare.

When I simply state my job title, or even mention the industry, I must dive into a much deeper explanation of my job description in order to help those outside the industry grasp what I do for a living. This could simply be because I have no family members that work in communications. However, the definition of public relations has grown to encompass much more than it did in the days before the Internet.

I begin by explaining that it is my responsibility to manage the flow of information between my clients (usually high-tech companies) and the public. One tactic I reference is inserting a client’s story into news that is trending in magazines and newspapers.

But as I think about how many different hats I wear throughout a day in the office (digital marketer, editor, blogger), I feel that my brief explanation does not properly clarify all that I do.

Then I ask them a question: How do you form an opinion of a company?

Naturally, the reply is to Google the company’s name and see what pops up. This is because the first page of results on Google displays all they need to know to form their opinion — details like the company’s website, LinkedIn account, Wikipedia page, Twitter account, blog and most recent news coverage. This is where I smile, and then explain that, as an account coordinator, I manage social media accounts, edit Wikipedia pages, write blog posts and pitch news reporters all in the name of ensuring that my clients’ stories are told consistently and compellingly through all mediums the public may come across in a Web search.

Suddenly, the purpose of my job makes sense.

While not all careers require as in-depth an explanation as mine often does, I don’t mind defining public relations for my peers outside the industry — especially since the definition seems to be ever-growing.

After all, I do have a career as a storyteller.

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