20 PR terms everyone should know

If you’re starting in Public Relations (PR), or just need a refresher on some terminology, here are twenty PR terms that everyone should know:

Ad Value – a monetary value given to coverage in relation to how much an ad of the same size would cost in a hard copy of the outlet. (Thompson PR)

Advocacy – Support or argument for a group, an organization, or a cause. (OBrien PR)

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. (PRSA)

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) – Providing support to an event or a cause by devoting corporate resources in exchange for an opportunity to enhance goodwill. The role of PR in CSR is to communicate effectively in order to build corporate accountability and transparency. (O’Brien PR)

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. (PRSA)

Editorial – An article or opinion piece written to communicate key messages to the various audiences identified by a client and consultancy. (O’Brien PR)

Internal communications – Communicating with employees and shareholders to inform them of change (for instance during a company merger), keep them up to date with company news and developments, or to help achieve corporate objectives. (O’Brien PR)

Media Monitoring – The regular surveillance of media sources to track coverage of your own or a competitor organization, and/or issues and topics of relevance to your business or industry. (O’Brien PR)

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. (PRSA)

Messages – Agreed words or statements that a client wants to convey to third parties, like the media or shareholders, for example. (O’Brien PR)

Not for Attribution – means that a reporter agrees not to identify a source by name. Identification is provided only by reference to the source’s job or position. That identification must be agreed upon by the reporter and the source and is almost always given in a way that prevents readers from discovering the source’s specific identity. Ex. “A high-ranking official.” (NYU Journalism)

Off the Record – restricts the reporter from using the information the source is about to deliver. The information is offered to explain or further a reporter’s understanding of a particular issue or event. (NYU Journalism)

On Background – the source’s name does not appear in the story. In effect, it confers anonymity on your source but allows you to work with the information the source has provided. (NYU Journalism)

On the Record – anything the source says can be reported, published, or aired. All conversations are assumed to be on the record unless the source expressly requests—and the reporter explicitly agrees—to go off the record beforehand. If the reporter agrees to change “on the record” to something else, the reporter should be sure to mark notes clearly so that it’s possible to see what’s on the record and what is not at a later date. (NYU Journalism)

Press Release – an official statement or announcement written by a company or organization and issued to media outlets. This can be repurposed or distributed verbatim. (Thompson PR)

Proactive Public Relations – Taking the initiative to develop and apply public relations plans to achieve measurable results toward set goals and objectives. (PRSA)

Public Affairs – A specialized area of public relations that builds and maintains mutually beneficial governmental and local community relations. Also applies to public relations practices by the military and governmental agencies because of the 1913 Gillett Amendment. (PRSA)

Public Information – Information open to or belonging to the public. In government agencies, nonprofit organizations, or colleges and universities, the task of disseminating information from the organization to the public. The process is usually done through mass or social media. (PRSA)

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. (PRSA)

Talking Points: A cheat sheet of relevant facts and figures that are given to clients or media outlets before interviews. (Thompson PR)

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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