It’s a huge industry with thousands of firms nationwide. It’s often brought up when discussing communications and media in classrooms. With context clues, one could assume it has something to do with relating communications to the public. But what exactly does it mean to work in public relations?

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines it as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” It’s all about connecting the business to the public, anticipating and interpreting public opinion and attitudes that could negatively or positively impact the organization. Public relations analyzes how the public would view a plan or action and how it could affect the company.

Not only does the job entail communicating and advising the business, but it also deals with presenting a certain image to the public. The challenge lies in providing people with necessary information while gaining the public’s understanding to further the organization’s aims. This can include: marketing, financial work, fundraising, employee, community or government relations, and other programs.

Forbes lists the essential tools of public relations people:

  • Write and distribute press releases
  • Speech writing
  • Write pitches (less formal than press releases) about a firm and send them directly to journalists
  • Create and execute special events designed for public outreach and media relations
  • Conduct market research on the firm or the firm’s messaging
  • Expansion of business contacts via personal networking or attendance and sponsoring at events
  • Writing and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
  • Crisis public relations strategies
  • Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online

Through all of these actions, public relations creates the image for the company and secures its place within the media. Good publicity is key for maintaining favor with the public. Entrepreneur upholds that “the key to securing publicity is identifying your target market and developing a well-thought-out public relations campaign.” Essentially, it’s crafting the face and voice of the company.

Nancy Brenner, who does public relations for Fortune 500 companies, likened the job to working in emergency rooms in an interview for The Guardian: “There’s always a new project, and you need to do triage and assess which ones need instant attention.” She constantly has to network, taking people out to dinner or shows, and keeps up with current news to stay on top of trends and stories that may have a connection for her clients.

So it’s a busy occupation. You have to constantly stay aware of what’s happening in the media, make sure clients are happy, and bolster the image of the business you’re working for. As it’s been starkly shown through our current media and society, keeping the public happy isn’t easy. But for public relations personnel, it’s all just part of the job.