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Public Relations is a field of study whose essential components have not been defined by both scholars and practitioners. This is due to myriad perceptions that have come up with respect to the ideals of public relation and its difference from advertisement. The definition of public relation is historical and having collected 472 definitions, Plessis defines it as “a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics” (16). From the definition that is a culmination and combination of several definitions, it is clear why the profession has raised debates among scholars and practitioners. The most confusing element in its definition is its closeness with meaning of advertisement.
Public relation differs from advertisement in many aspects. Whereas in advertisement the creative control and content to the public remain with the advertiser, in public relation an organization has no control over the presentation of information. The media only present the idea to the audience in their own way. The second parameter to distinguish between public relations and advertisement is based on the wisdom of the consumers.
In adverts, the consumers are well aware of the intention of a company to sell a product; therefore, they would be keen to analyze the selling message cautiously. On the other hand, as for the public relations, the consumers would read an article on a particular product with the perception that nothing was paid by the organization. Regardless of the differences, the departments of advertisement and the department of public relations should work closely during product release for mutual benefit of the organization (Field 3).
The public relation profession is a very lucrative discipline given the multi-billion nature of the firms in public relation and advertisement industry. Field confirms that as much as there are many advertisement jobs available, “We are similarly surrounded by public relations campaigns that attempt to provide us with opinions, often trying to influence us to change the ones we have now” (1). The two disciplines are all valuable and a professional working in one department would easily switch to the other as the fields are related in many aspects.
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