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Glossary of Common Communications Terms

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  • AVE: Stands for "Advertising Value Equivalency". A measure of the value of media coverage by comparing it to the cost of a similar placement were it an advertisement. Most of today's PR theorists see limitations with AVE as a metric.
  • B2B: Shorthand for "Business to Business"; usually used to refer to a situation where one business offers its products and services to another business, or when a business' target audience or customer base is another business industry.
  • B2C: Shorthand for "Business to Consumer"; The opposite of B2B wherein a business' primary customers are consumers as opposed to other business entities.
  • Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles, Barcelona Principles: The latest set of standards for the PR industry in terms of measurement and evaluation of PR outcomes. The Barcelona Principles reflect the growing concern that public relations has not kept step with contemporary Web analytics and measurement standards. (see this Institute for PR article for an in-depth look at the Barcelona Principles documents

  • Benchmark: A metric or measure that is used as a standard or average against which to measure future performance. e.g., If a website receives 100 visitors per day on average, a marketing department may decide that 100 visitors/day is a benchmark.
  • Boilerplate: The section at the end of a press release, and before the media contact info, which gives a brief description of the company, business, brand, product, service, organization or event discussed in the main body of the press release.
  • Bottom Line Message: The "bottom line" is the final result or conclusion. It is sometimes referred to as the summary or the gist (the condensed) version of a longer statement or message.
  • Brand Recognition: With respect to public relations, a term used to measure the number of people within a relevant public who have heard of a particular brand.
  • Brand Franchise: A brand which has a high degree of positive sentiment for its brands; i.e., a measure of how many members of a relevant public "like" the brand and what it stands for. The goal of branding is to move a business from brand awareness or recognition to brand franchise.
  • Business Literacy: PR practitioners must increasingly learn more about the nature of business management in order to provide effectively advocacy and internal communications to their clients and employers.
  • Byline: The name printed below the title of a newspaper or magazine article, crediting the author. Often includes date of publish.
  • Campaign: The execution of a strategic marketing, public relations or communications plan that usually spans a longer period of time and which has certain goals and objectives it is trying to achieve.
  • Case Study: A campaign, strategy or tactic that is studied in detail and used as a paradigmatic example of a certain marketing, PR or communications principle.
  • Clip or Clipping: A story cut from a publication or a segment cut from a video or audiotape
  • Client: A client is the business, organization, individual or entity for which an agency, consultancy, or freelancer provides his or her services. If I am doing marketing or public relations work for Starbucks, then Starbucks is said to be my client.
  • "Client Pays" Wire Service: Client pays to have h/er own news or feature stories transmitted through print, online or broadcast media newsrooms at no cost to the media company.

  • Content Curation, Curation: Curation is the practice of taking existing information and compiling or organizing it in a way that benefits a relevant public, along with the regular checking of that information for accuracy. Examples include our Tweetchat Wiki, which is an organized list of chats on Twitter.
  • Court of Public Opinion: A phrase that is used to emphasize the fact that the public tends to believe whatever the media portrays as being true, whether it is true or not. For example, many people believe negative reports about their favorite celebrities in magazines like Enquirer and People. As a result, the celebrity's reputation can be tarnished by the negative judgment of this "court of public opinion" - even though s/he may not have engaged in any objectionable conduct.

  • CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility: The movement of corporations, organizations and businesses to pursue not only profit objectives, but also objectives that advance a social or public good. Typically CSR refers to the efforts of companies to become sustainable, eco-friendly and "green". CSR also refers to being ethical and transparent in accounting and financial practices. The CSR movement reflects a growing cultural belief that corporations should not only focus on profitability but encourage a "triple bottom line": people, planet, and profits. (see "Triple Bottom Line" on Wikipedia)
  • Crisis Communications: The type of communications that organizations use when experiencing a crisis. It is differentiated from the ordinary communications messages put out by the organization.
  • Cutline: The information below a picture or art, which describes it; also called a caption.
  • Earned Media: Media coverage that is gained through relationship building, story pitching, and media relations work, as opposed to paid advertising or other paid media placement methods.
  • Emotional Intelligence: In the context of public relations, this has to do with understanding the emotions of oneself and others in business settings, in order to best navigate those situations. EI also has to do with knowing how to craft and disseminate messaging that speaks to an audience's emotional levels.
  • Engagement: If reach is a measure of quantity of viewers of a communications object, engagement refers to how many of those "reached" responded to the communication in some way, shape or form. A "retweet" (Twitter) or "Like" (Facebook) is an example of engagement.
  • Ethnography: Research approach and methods involving observation and conversation adapted from the discipline of anthropology; used in business to reveal what people do, want, think and feel to design and improve customer experiences holistically (see this Harvard Business Review article.
    Definition provided by user:Robinbeers, chief executive of Business Is Human, LLC
    )
  • Father of Public Relations: Widely considered to be Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, and creator of the first mass psychological experiments to reshape public opinion.
  • First Amendment (U.S. Constitution): An amendment to the Constitution of the United States guaranteeing the right of free expression; includes freedom of assembly and freedom of the press and freedom of religion and freedom of speech, bedrock pillars on which persuasive communications is built.
  • Four Models of Public Relations Practice (Grunig & Hunt): The four prevailing paradigms public relations practitioners utilize to carry out their duties. These include the Press Agentry, Public Information, Two-Way Asymmetrical and Two-Way Symmetrical Models.
  • Goal: A general idea of what one would like to achieve, typically with respect to a PR campaign; the superobjective; the end target or outcome that one wants to achieve for his communications efforts.
  • Hierarchy of Effects Model of Advertising (HOE): A advertising and marketing communications that suggests that the steps leading to a purchase decision span certain identifiable stages. Each successive stage is influenced by the stage that preceded it. These stages have been identified as
  1. Awareness (in branding terms, Brand Awareness)
  2. Knowledge (in branding terms, Brand Recognition)
  3. Liking, preference (in branding terms, Brand Franchise)
  4. Conviction to purchase or become a customer
  5. Actually purchasing or becoming a customer
HOE is used by advertising agencies and marketing firms to create integrated marketing communications strategies and implement effective marketing tactics.
  • Influence: PR academics attempt to quantify and measure the number of people within a relevant public who are inspired to act as a result of the charisma, authoritativeness, desirability, likability, power, affluence or popularity of an individual, brand, business or organization. Web startups like Klout.Com are devising means to use social media to better quantify influence. Influence is distinguished from reach in that the former must include an observable action on the part of the receiver.
  • Integration, Integrated Communications: A recent trend in public relations that sees connecting the various media (traditional, digital, online and offline) to present a unified message across the various media.
  • Issues Management: In general, using public relations tactics to address customer complaints or improve failing, inefficient or negative business processes.
  • Lead Time: Period of time that reporters and producers need to prepare stories and information for publication or broadcast.
  • Masthead: list of editors, publishers, and senior reporters in each publication's issue. It usually includes an address and telephone number of the publication's offices.
  • Media Buy: The purchase of media - conventionally construed as television, radio, film or print - for the purposes of a marketing, PR or communications campaign.
  • Media Placement, Media Coverage: Coverage in a news publication. Can be earned or paid.
  • Media Relations: A common PR practice that involves conversing with members of the press for such purposes as scheduling interviews, ensuring story coverage, supplying quotes, providing facts and figures, and following up on commitments to cover a story.
  • Objective: The measurable achievement towards a given goal. For example, a goal may be to "increase my fanbase for my books." An objective might be to "grow my Facebook 'likes' 10% over the next 12 months."
  • Op-Ed: Short for "Opinion Editorial". Article, usually espousing the author's or publication's opinion on an issue, written by an expert that is positioned on the page opposite the editorial page.
  • Opportunity to See, Hear (OTS, OTH): Though limited, held by PR professionals as a better evaluative measure than pure impressions. OTS/OTH refer to a more realistic measure of how many people in a target audience actually had the opportunity to see (or hear, in the case of a TV/radio/podcast broadcast) a communications or media message. Whereas "impressions" is a raw number of how many times a message was delivered to some channel, Opportunity to See attempts to define exactly how many of those impressions represented an actual possibility of a person to see/hear them.

  • Organizational Media: Production of media primarily by an organization itself, as opposed to a PR or communications agency; also, the character, type and quality of media associated with a particular organization.
  • Organizational Narrative: Think of the organizational narrative as being like a giant tapestry that is continuously being woven, viewed and commented upon by various stakeholders. The organizational narrative comprises areas such as the history of the organization, research and development, unique selling proposition, business goals, company values, successes (including failures overcome), key players, and relationships within the company, sector and larger community.
From a public relations perspective—organizational reputation, value and relationship building—how well received and effective it will be is dependent upon two main things:
  1. how much does current leadership recognize and value the remit of public relations (i.e., carriage and authority), including top-level counsel; and
  2. how knowledgeable and skilled is the lead PR practitioner, agency or department at conducting the design and weaving, in terms of organizational research and monitoring (company and competitors) and communication and engagement.
Often it is only during an economic downturn or a crisis that the value of a consistent and honest organizational narrative is realized fully. (This original definition of "organizational narrative" provided by Judy Gombita, a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist. Gombita is the co-editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the international, collaborative blog, PR Conversations. Find her on Twitter at @jgombita.)
  • Owned Media: A media channel that the publisher owns, for example, a business website, social media account, or a YouTube channel. Typically, owned media means that the owner can publish virtually whatever type of content on the channel s/he chooses. The term is usually used in connection with Paid Media and Earned Media.
  • Press Agentry Model: A model of public relations popularized by P. T. Barnum, which sees the press as a sort of marionette whose strings are to be pulled and manipulated by the PR agent whenever the need arises. Put in a Kantian way, this model sees the media as a "mere means" to the ends of a business, company, organization or PR firm. As a result, the stress is less on accuracy and collaboration with the media than on shaping public opinion.
  • PR Multipliers, Multipliers: Metrics used in PR to account for the value of pass-along impressions of publicity. For example, a magazine with a circulation 200,000 may claim that actually 300,000 people viewed the publicity object due to word-of-mouth or people leaving the magazine in on a table so another would pick it up and read it. (see "Dispelling the Myth of PR Multipliers ...")
  • Press Kit: A package of promotional material provided to members of the press to brief them, esp. about a product, service, or candidate.
  • Press Release: A news announcement, usually put out by a representative of an organization, that features a new development, product, service or other event of historical or reputation importance for the organization. See related articles:
  • Propaganda: Used as a pejorative term that means using communication or information to persuade people to do what you want them to or to exert influence over them. In a PR sense, propaganda was renamed to "public relations" by Edward Bernays to divorce it from its negative connotations. The idea of propaganda is to somehow influence or motivate certain behaviors desired by those who disseminate the propaganda.
  • Public, Publics: In PR parlance, a public is not merely an aggregate of unrelated individuals. Rather, it is a tightly-defined audience with shared characteristics. PR profs try to identify the public or publics who are important to clients in terms of influence, sentimentality, tonality, relational and reputation building.
  • Public Information Model: A model of PR practice that emerged after the press agentry model (listed above). It is seen as a sort of corrective to the previous practice of PR. Its focus is on simply reporting the story to the media and sticking solely to facts, as opposed to trying to shape public opinion through use of the media.
  • Publicist: Conventionally, a public relations specialist in an entertainment industry. Publicists are a subset of a public relations professionals, such that, "all publicists are PRs, but not all PRs are publicists." A publicist's job is usually to secure publicity for actors, musicians, writers, celebrities, sports personalities, politicians, and other high profile, very specialized industries.

  • Public Relations: A variety of skills and tactics developed to create favorable opinion for a person, event, or product that ultimately supports the firm's bottom line. You turn to a public relations firm to help you achieve media coverage.
  • REVISED, Nov. 23, 2011: Public relations is the practice of producing publicity (excluding promotional materials and paid advertising, which typically fall under the purview of Marketing); managing media relations and communications (typically among members of the Fourth Estate); and managing reputation. (See Terry Flynn's awesome wiki project, Defining Public Relations, for a rigorous discussion and long-developing collaboration on the various definitions of PR. These definitions have been offered by many different sources and span several decades of public relations theory.)

  • Publicity: The art of creating greater exposure for a client, business, product or service in the public. Some PR professionals of a more theoretical bent are clear to distinguish publicity from Public Relations, although the terms are often conceived to be more or less synonymous. Whereas Publicity is focused on creating broad awareness for an individual, product or business, Public Relations has to do more with "sustaining the relationships that make the individual, product or business successful." (see "What Public Relations Is Not" by Bill Sledz)
  • REVISED, Nov. 23, 2011: an act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically : information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support
  • QR Code: A graphical image that encodes data which can be scanned using a mobile device. When the image is scanned, the encoded message is decoded and able to be read by the user. QR codes can encode URL, contact, or text information. They can also encode SMS data which can be sent to other mobile devices.
  • Reach: A measure of the number of persons who viewed a communication object. For example, a print publication with a circulation of 132,000 is a representation of its "reach'.
  • Reputation Management: The PR practice of monitoring, correcting and enhancing the perception of a brand, individual, organization or business in the court of public opinion.
  • ROI: An acronym for "Return on Investment". A calculation that determines the amount of money a particular campaign, ad placement, media buy or other communications spend produced. &npsp; ROI Calculation
  • Sentiment: PR statisticians try to quantify and measure the positive or negative feelings and/or perceptions a public has about a given subject.
  • SEO, Search Engine Optimization: The art and science of producing greater visibility for a website by interpreting search engine ranking signals and structuring both on-page and off-page elements of a website. The goals of SEO are to make a website findable, searchable, crawlable, and indexable to web searchers, as well as to enhance a website's trust and authority to the search engine ranking algorithms so as to rank the website well in the major search engines (Read more about the intersection between press releases, Google News and SEO).
  • Share of Voice: A brand's or group of brands' advertising weight expressed as a percentage of a defined total market or market segment in a given time period. The weight is usually defined in terms of expenditure, ratings, pages, poster sites etc (source: Wikipedia)

  • SMS (Text Message): SMS stands for "Short Messaging Service". It is the technical word for texting, or text messaging. It operates through the SMS Gateway and is mediated by cell phone carriers. In recent years, marketers and PR practitioners have begun utilizing SMS in their marketing campaigns.
  • Social Object: A communication object that generates enough fascination to inspire people to action of some sort. For example, when we tweet out the link to the wiki, people respond. They visit the wiki, register for an account, and add their chats. Then they return to Twitter to tell us about it.

  • Spin: Jargon for the point of view or bias you create in a story. PR pros are often referred to as "spin doctors," implying that they deliberately use rhetoric, relationship and manipulation of facts to promote an ideology.
  • Strategy: In PR, the blueprint for how objectives will be achieved.
  • Subhead: Text that appears just underneath the headline in a press release or news article; it summarizes the article to follow.
  • Syndicated, Syndication: A press release, news story or other news report that is published automatically in more than one media outlet simultaneously. Our Media Placement package offers syndication of your press releases.

  • Social Object: A social object is any communications device that draws enough fascination from viewers that it generates conversation and action around the object. Examples include social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, news stories, political rallies or ideologies, etc. (see "What Is A Social Object") on Quora.
  • Story Pitching: The art of using rhetoric to persuade a journalist, writer, blogger or other media professional to give media coverage to a particular story, product, business or issue.
  • Tactics: Refers to the specific action steps to be taken to achieve an objective.
  • Tonality: A PR term that tries to capture the intersection of sentiment and influence. For example, the tonality of responses to a news piece can be positive, negative or neutral.
  • Tweetchats: Virtual meetings or gatherings held on Twitter. Tweetchat participants use the hashtag name of the chat to identify the tweets as belonging to a particular chat. (see our Tweetchat Wiki)
see also

  • Two-Way Asymmetrical Model: A model of PR practice that is relatively recent in the history and development of public relations. This model shifts the emphasis away from using the media to push an organizational agenda on its public. It is called "two-way" to underscore the relational aspects of public relations (e.g., the PR firm relating to all relevant stakeholders, which includes its publics, not just serving the interests of the client). Such communication is "asymmetrical" when the company or agency does not internalize or apply the feedback of other stakeholders and publics to the enhancement of its own internal processes or operations.
  • Two-Way Symmetrical Model: Like the Two-Way Asymmetrical Model, this model also underscores the relational aspects of public relations (e.g., the PR firm relating to all relevant stakeholders, not just serving the interests of the client). Such communication is "symmetrical" when the company and agency both internalize and apply the feedback of other stakeholders/publics to the improvement of their own internal processes and operations.
  • VNR: Stands for "video news release"; a video segment made to look like a news report, but is instead created by a PR firm, advertising agency, marketing firm, corporation, or government agency. They are provided to television newsrooms to shape public opinion, promote commercial products and services, publicize individuals, or support other interests. (source: Wikipedia)


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