“Tell me,” a new acquaintance said to me, “what exactly does public relations mean.”

I wasn’t offended by the question because it wasn’t the first time I had heard it. Nope, in fact, it’s something I’ve heard from the very beginning of my PR career. In my mind, the name itself nicely explains what it is, but then again I can’t really be objective about it since it’s been my career of choice for more than 20 years.

Folks who choose the PR path are, in general, people who like to talk, love to tell stories, get a kick out of helping clients build their brand and reputation, and enjoy the relationship building process with the media. PR pros analyze their clients, their projects, and their organizations to determine the best way to move forward in getting them the publicity they’re after – or helping them figure out the best way to respond to a bad situation while doing the least amount of damage possible.

In short, a PR specialist’s job is to create positive publicity for their client while also helping to shape their image. How do they do that? They:

— Build relationships with local, regional and national media. This is crucial to being able to have your clients’ stories told

— Write and distribute press releases that are clean and concise

— Pitch stories to media outlets, coming up at times creative ways to get their attention, like sending out a press kit, along with all sorts of ingredients to announce a new pastry shop.

— Create and implement press conferences

— Write talking points and speeches for clients

— Write stories and blogs for the clients’ website

— Handle social media platforms for clients and creating responses to negative feedback

— Form crisis communications strategies and plans

PR people can also spend hours talking their clients off the ledge, preparing them for interviews and running interference for them. It’s a great job and tons of fun (most of the time)… especially when you land your client lots of great publicity for which they haven’t had to pay.