By Jenny Fujita and Joy K. Miura, Fujita & Miura Public Relations, LLC.

We hear the term public relations, or PR, a lot more now days, whether about bad PR surrounding former President Clinton’s scandals, the PR war waged over Elian Gonsalez, or the PR-infused plots in NBC’s The West Wing. But PR isn’t just for politics or entertainment. So what exactly is PR?”Public relations” is as it sounds: it’s about organizations or individuals building and keeping relationships with their publics. In the PR world, the term public refers to any group of people that do, or may, interact with an individual or organization, for example, customers, potential customers, employees, other businesses, the media, legislators, etc.

What is the purpose of PR? Northwestern University Professor Dr. Clarke L. Caywood describes PR as “the profitable integration of an organization’s new and continuing relationships … that create and protect the brand and reputation of the organization.” PR covers two basic, yet essential, concepts: communication and image. PR is usually conducted by an organization using an in-house public relations staff, or an outsourced PR firm. Either way, the PR process begins with research and detailed strategic planning, and ends with implementing and evaluating a plan.

In the past, PR professionals have themselves suffered from bad images, and have been referred to as “spin doctors” who brush negative situations under the carpet, or distort the truth about controversial issues. Like every profession, PR has its good and bad eggs. However, in 1948, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) was formed to address PR issues and uphold the profession to the highest standards. Today, many PR professionals abide by the PRSA Code of Ethics.

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