Public relations has been defined in many different ways. The definition was changing with the development of the PR industry. One of the up-to-date definitions says: "Public relations (PR) is internal and external communication (use of symbols and symbolic acts) to inform or influence specific publics using writing, marketing, advertising, publicity, promotions, and special events." The sphere of public relations activity is wide: some PR specialists work for PR agencies or are freelance PR consultants whose services are contracted by corporations, wealthy individuals, etc.; others are full-time employees of politicians and government or companies and organizations.
In 1998 approximately 122,000 jobs were held by public relation specialists, while in all other industries approximately 485,000 advertising, marketing and PR managers were involved. In order to reach its goals and to satisfy clients' needs modern public relations uses a variety of techniques, both for examining public opinion (opinion polls, focus groups, etc.) and distributing information (Internet, broadcast faxes and other).
As years pass, techniques for managing the public have also changed and multiplied. According to the PRSA, "Examples of the knowledge that may be required in the professional practice of public relations include communication arts, psychology, social psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and the principles of management and ethics. Technical knowledge and skills are required for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail, institutional advertising, publications, film/video productions, special events, speeches, and presentations."
A stereotype that public relations professionals are corporate servants still exists nowadays. But in reality almost every organization employs at least one PR manager if it needs to create its portrait in the media. Large corporations have separate communications departments. Non profit organizations, trade associations, government agencies often carry out PR activities.
The field of public relations provides a number of professions, like crisis management, reputation management, issue management, investor relations and labour relations, grassroots PR. Besides, most of large agencies practice separating their work into area-specific "practices": healthcare PR, foodservice PR, public affairs PR, technology PR and others, while smaller agencies specialize in only one or a few ones.