5/25/14 • Terminology toward Successful Public Relations

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(5/25/14) BELMONT, N.C. –  The public relations field is rich with terminology specific to this industry. Dive deeply into research and you’ll swim among ethnography, rhetoric and various theories of understanding. However, in applying public relations and other elements of communications to your own business at a cost-effective level, a basic understanding of the field is merely necessary. This month, we’ll break down many of the terms we regularly share with you, detailing what each means as you incorporate segments of our industry in your everyday work:

  • Boilerplate – Ever wonder what to call the small section at the end of a press release that briefly describes the company, business, brand, organization, etc. discussed in the main section of the release? That “about” section at the end of the release is referred to as the boilerplate. “Boilerplate” is a PR term derived from steel manufacturing and borrowed by the printing industry; it originally refers to the metal plate identifying the builder of a steam boiler.
  • Byline – In newspapers, magazines and most other published materials, including online versions, the byline is the printed name below the article title, crediting its author.
  • Communications – Communications is often defined as the art and technique of transmitting words, design elements and messages effectively, imparting information to others. This is often accomplished via a variety of methods, such as journalism news stories, public relations press releases and advertising campaigns.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – In previous columns, we’ve discussed the importance of being a socially responsible business. What does that mean? Corporate social responsibility is a growing movement or trend among companies toward pursuits that increase their public/social good; this can be within the community, such as work with a non-profit agency, or efforts toward improved sustainability habits. CSR can even include increased transparency among businesses and more ethical financial practices. Many companies implement CSR behaviors in the hopes of simultaneously increasing profits as a result of their positive actions.
  • Crisis communications – When experiencing a crisis situation, companies and organizations, or their public relations team, employ specific crisis communications measures. These messages are different than ordinary PR tactics and strategies. They address the crisis at hand with respect to the issue and attempt to quell any negative repercussions, particularly within the media, as best as possible. Crisis communications are often, but not always, employed in a swift manner following the particular crisis.
  • Embargo – Occasionally, a PR professional will release information to the media in advance of when those details can be published or shared with the public. That information is said to be “embargoed” until a specific date and time when the information, press release, etc. can be released, as dictated by the PR professional to the media.
  • Media relations – Media relations is a segment of public relations rather than another term for the practice of PR. Media relations specifically involves working with members of the press. This can include providing background information on an upcoming event or a specific client, scheduling interviews, following up on issued press releases or coverage promises, etc.
  • Media training – Not many individuals find comfort speaking to the media. PR firms conduct media training, as needed, with spokespersons for companies and organizations as well as public figures and individuals who may need to engage with members of the media. Training typically can include creation of discussion topics or sample questions for an upcoming interview as well as mock interviews. It also includes tips for successful interviews whether for television, radio or print.
  • Pitching – In public relations, specifically media relations, capturing press attention is often vital; however, a full press release isn’t always necessary. Occasionally, a press release also needs accompaniment. Pitching is an additional tool used to persuade a journalist, blogger, newsroom editor, etc., toward potential media coverage. Whether writing about a product or an event, the pitch is a few sentences creatively and concisely summing up the topic, but leaving the press member optimistically wanting to learn more.
  • Press release – We often refer to press releases, but what are they? This particular PR tool is a simple news announcement. It is usually distributed by the company or organization, or a hired representative, such as a PR firm. The press release should have the ability to stand alone as a news story – it can be utilized by a receiving media outlet – and it should include all pertinent details per the announcement, such as news relevance, quotes, background context and contact information.
  • Public relations – The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” For the purpose of this definition, publics are defined, precise audiences. Public relations can include producing publicity for a client, assisting with reputation management, media relations and a variety of other endeavors. The definitions of these terms are not inclusive. The list itself isn’t inclusive. Stroll onto the internet and you’ll find a plethora of explanations for each word listed here, but all will be similar in nature. You’ll also discover at least two dozen additional words and phrases that we could have included.

The public relations field is vast and encompasses multiple facets within it. From the news article you read prior to this column to the retailers you’ll drive by on your way to work, this industry has its hands in nearly everything. Understanding the terminology noted here will give you a better grasp on its reach as well as how you can incorporate these fundamentals into your own business.

Looking for more terminology defined for your business’ use? Stay tuned to this column! In next month’s article, we will break down a variety of terms specific to the advertising industry, helping you market your product with ease.

Elaine and Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/14j9ddi.