Two functions that define the societal role of public relations are consumer relations and community relations.
Perhaps no other set of nations in the world has a more thorough set of laws to protect its citizens from shoddy and unsafe merchandise, services schemes that defraud them or foods that don't pass certain health criteria than the United States and several other westernized nations. The reason is that the laws surrounding products, services, foods, drugs and even transportation have been created to protect the consumer. In the context of public relations, the societal function that influences the most amounts of people is consumer relations.
From a societal context, consumer relations fulfills the role of both coordinator of information flow between manufacturers, the government, and the consumer, ultimately looking out for what's best for the consumer and their well-being. This is a critical step in many countries as the function can expose risks to consumers of unsafe products. During the 19th century for example, Upton Sinclair (2002) and his classic book, the Jungle, showed the many practices in the meat processing and packing industry that needed overhauling to