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PR & How it is Different from Journalism "Public relations serves a wide variety of institutions in society such as businesses, trade unions, government agencies, voluntary associations, foundations, hospitals, schools, colleges, and religious institutions. To achieve their goals, these institutions must develop effective relationships with many different audiences or publics such as employees, members, customers, local communities, shareholders, and other institutions, and with society at large" (PRSA).

Public Relations is not journalism. Though they share some common traits, there are areas in which they are vastly different from one another.

"Writing is a common activity of both public relations professionals and journalists. Both also do their jobs in many of the same ways; they interview people, gather and synthesize large amounts of information,write in a journalistic style, and are trained to produce good copy on deadline" (Wilcox et al. 12).

A PR Professional's Job
Both PR professionals and journalists must practice good writing skills in order to reach the public; however, where the journalist writes soley to inform the people on a specific issue, the PR practitioner takes it a step further. He or she, through informing the public tries to change the way that public behaves or acts.

For example, a PR professional gathers facts about the audience (public) it is trying to reach and influence, whether it be external or internal, in order to better serve that public's needs. By understanding the public he or she is trying to reach, and by meeting its needs, the professional is actually meeting the client's or company's needs better and more completely.

According to Harold Burson, co-founder of Burson-Marsteller, one of the foremost PR firms in the world, "To be effective and credible, public relations messages must be based on facts. Nevertheless, we are advocates, and we need to remember that. We are advocates of a particular point of view - our client's or our employer's point of view. And while we recognize that serving the public interest best serves our client's interest, we are not journalists. That's not our job."

Crisis Management
Another key role of the PR professional is Crisis Management, or what should be thought of as crisis prevention. A good PR practitioner knows before a crisis happens and should be able to prevent it. A PR practitioner must do his or her research and have good, open lines of communication with all the publics in order to anticipate any possible problem or threat that could arise for the company. If something does go wrong, a management plan must go into effect immediately to contain the problem and correct it.

The PRSA Code of Conduct
While serving the public, and, at the same time satisfying his or her employer, the PR professional must always remain ethical. In 1950, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) adopted their "Code of Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations." The Code contains nearly 20 articles that a professional must adhere to in order to avoid censure. The general focus and idea behind these articles aims to ensure that PR practitioners "conduct themselves professionally with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public and improve their individual competence...of the profession through continuing research and education" (Wilcox et al. 60).

To review the Code in full and find out a lot more about PR and the jobs available, check out the PRSA website at: PRSA Logo

For public relations students there is the Public Relations Student Society of America. Here students can find out about awards and scholarships offered to PR students, as well as other useful information to make sure they are prepared to enter the market place and set themselves apart from all the other students by making themselves more "marketable." Check PRSSA out at: PRSSA Logo

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