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PR: It Can Be a Dirty Job...

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as, “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” To quote an old saying, “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”

Public Relations professionals help a business or individual cultivate a positive reputation with the public through various unpaid or earned communications, including traditional media, social media, and in-person engagements. However, PR isn’t just used for positive storytelling; it also helps clients defend their reputation and mitigate any damage during a crisis that threatens credibility and weakens reputation.

A Life-and-Death Case Study

In the early 1980s, numerous bottles of Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol product were laced with cyanide by an unknown person, killing seven people. This led to widespread panic and could have resulted in the end of Tylenol products.

Johnson & Johnson took aggressive PR measures to mitigate the damage: first, the company pulled all of its Tylenol products off the shelves and issued a national statement warning consumers not to purchase or use Tylenol. Then, Johnson & Johnson created a new tamper-resistant seal, and instructed 2,000 sales personnel to deliver presentations to the medical community to reintroduce these new, safer Tylenol bottles. This effective PR strategy saved Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, as well as their product -- in fact, Tylenol shares climbed back up to 24 percent just six weeks after the cyanide crisis.

In the case of Johnson & Johnson, a simple advertising campaign wouldn’t have worked. Instead, PR was necessary: PR professionals were able to spread a story that portrayed Johnson & Johnson as a company that puts consumers ahead of profit. Along with mitigating damage to Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, PR was used to save more people from consuming cyanide-laced Tylenol, and then used to inform the public that Tylenol was safe again. A win-win-win.

Public Relations professionals are adept at handling a wide variety of both good and bad circumstances and must address these events so the public and client can maintain a beneficial relationship. PR specialists also play a role in advising management on the best policy decisions or actions to take, and conducting programs, such as fundraising or networking events, to help the public understand the organization’s goals.

PR isn’t just used to influence a story after it happens -- it’s also used to write that story in the first place. (Source: In additional to all of this, Public Relations can be a cost-effective (did someone say FREE?) way to gain introduce and gain exposure for your business, product or service – no matter the size. Check out these small business tips below:

Author: Rich Khan

1. Tell your brand's story. Storytelling can help transform your brand’s identity and presence…

2. Keep up with the industry. Read a lot and read often to make sure you’re staying informed…

3. Network with the top influencers…actively keep up with the top industry reporters…

4. Do your research and remain objective…

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