public relations

public relations

public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most favorable light. Thus, the goal of the public relations consultant is to create, through the organization of news and advertising, an advantageous image for his client, be it a business corporation, cultural institution, or private or public individual; toward this end—the making of favorable public opinion—many research techniques and communications media are used. Although many of the same methods are employed, public relations differs from propaganda, which is generally government supported, international in scope, and political in nature. The earliest form of public relations and still the most widely practiced is publicity. The principal instrument of publicity is the press release, which provides the mass media with the raw material and background for a news story. The growth of modern public relations is generally attributed to the development of the mass media, which accelerated the spread of ideas and increased the importance of public opinion by giving more people access to current events. Public relations as a field can be traced to the early 20th cent., when American businessmen found it necessary to respond to attacks by social reformers. A milestone in the industry was the opening (1904) of Ivy Lee's publicity office in New York City. Soon there were other firms in the field, and by World War I the concept of public relations had gained general acceptance. Public relations techniques have been widely used in politics and political campaigns. By the 1960s the public relations agency had become a fact in American life, numbering among its clients branches of national, state, and local government, industry, labor, professional and religious groups, and some foreign countries.

See B. R. Canfield, Public Relations (5th ed. 1968); E. L. Bernays, The Engineering of Consent (3d ed. 1969) and Public Relations (1970); S. M. Cutlip and A. H. Center, Effective Public Relations (4th ed. 1971); J. F. Awad, The Power of Public Relations (1985); E. W. Brody and G. C. Stone, Public Relations Research (1989).

Aspect of communications that involves promoting a desirable image for a person or group seeking public attention. It originated in the U.S. in the early 20th century with pioneers such as Edward L. Bernays and Ivy Ledbetter Lee. Government agencies in Britain and the U.S. soon began hiring publicists to engineer support for their policies and programs, and the public-relations business boomed after World War II. Clients may include individuals such as politicians, performers, and authors, and groups such as business corporations, government agencies, charities, and religious bodies. The audience addressed may be as narrow as male alternative-music fans between the ages of 21 and 30 or as broad as the world at large. A publicist's functions include generating favourable publicity and knowing what kind of story is likely to be printed or broadcast. The task is complicated by the variety of existing media: besides newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, there are publications of professional associations, direct-mail lists, on-site promotional events, and so on. It consists largely of optimizing good news and forestalling bad news; if disaster strikes, the publicist must assess the situation, organize the client's response so as to minimize damage, and marshal and present information to the media.

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Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. Public relations - often referred to as PR - gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. Because public relations places exposure in credible third-party outlets, it offers a third-party legitimacy that advertising does not have. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.

PR can be used to build rapport with employees, customers, investors, voters, or the general public. Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations. A number of specialties exist within the field of public relations, such as Investor Relations or Labor Relations.

Definition

''See more at History of public relations
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) claimed in 1988: "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other. According to the PRSA, the essential functions of public relations include research, planning, communications dialogue and evaluation.

Edward Louis Bernays, who is considered the founding father of modern public relations along with Ivy Lee, in the early 1900s defined public relations as a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization. . . followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance" (see history of public relations).

Today, "Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values." Essentially it is a management function that focuses on two-way communication and fostering of mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.

Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization or individual’s important audiences has a central role in doing public relations.

Agency and corporate PR

For PR practitioners and decision-makers the difference between agency and corporate PR teams is a fundamental dividing line for the profession. For smaller organizations, a PR agency is often their only source of PR counsel and work, while larger organizations typically work in a hybrid model with an internal PR team and an outside agency team. Still others have an internal team without an agency at all.

Agencies leverage their business model to provide resources (experts, tools, resources, information, and media relationships) that can be used for many different clients; resources that may not be sensible for each organization or individual to own and manage themselves. Internal teams that work directly for the organization or individual often have a better understanding of their employer’s business and work within the organization to engage the stakeholders, content providers and decision-makers inside the company.

Smaller firms typically specialize in specific topics and industries while larger firms have access to more resources and experts.

The Industry Today

Advertising dollars in media products from corporations like News Corp., Dow Jones,, and CMP are under rapid decline in favor of direct advertising products offered by search engines and other tools. 11 Traditional media publications are laying off journalists, consolidating beat reporters, shrinking their print editions, and many publications are shutting down entirely.

Blogs have lower over-head costs than traditional media and are often said to provide better news coverage and analysis. Blogs are increasingly sprouting to replace traditional media with a more sustainable low-cost business model and are gaining more of a following.

The advent of social media is the most pre-eminent trend in PR today. Among the primary commenters on the convergence of traditional and social media in PR is Brian Solis, who coined the term "PR 2.0" in 1993.

Social media releases, search engine optimization, content publishing, and the introduction of podcasts and video are other burgeoning trends.

Methods, tools and tactics

Public relations and publicity are not synonymous but many PR campaigns include provisions for publicity. Publicity is the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization, and can be seen as a result of effective PR planning.

Publics targeting

A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience, and to tailor every message to appeal to that audience. It can be a general, nationwide or worldwide audience, but it is more often a segment of a population. Marketers often refer to economy-driven "demographics," such as "black males 18-49," but in public relations an audience is more fluid, being whoever someone wants to reach. For example, recent political audiences include "soccer moms" and "NASCAR dads." There is also a psychographic grouping based on fitness level, eating preferences, "adrenaline junkies,"etc...

In addition to audiences, there are usually stakeholders, literally people who have a "stake" in a given issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, a charity commissions a PR agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease. The charity and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who is likely to donate money.

Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders common to a PR effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but still complementary messages. This is not always easy to do, and sometimes – especially in politics – a spokesperson or client says something to one audience that angers another audience or group of stakeholders.

Lobby groups

Lobby groups are established to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion. These groups claim to represent a particular interest. When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base it is known as a front group.

Spin

In public relations, spin is sometimes a pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favour of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused of spin by commentators and political opponents, when they produce a counter argument or position.

The techniques of "spin" include Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," Phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news. A famous reference to this practice occurred when British Government press officer Jo Moore used the phrase It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury, (widely paraphrased or misquoted as "It's a good day to bury bad news"), in an email sent on September 11, 2001. The furor caused when this email was reported in the press eventually caused her to resign.

Spin doctor

Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors", though probably not to their faces unless it is said facetiously. It is the PR equivalent of calling a writer a "hack". Perhaps the most well-known person in the UK often described as a "spin doctor" is Alastair Campbell, who was involved with Tony Blair's public relations between 1994 and 2003, and also played a controversial role as press relations officer to the British and Irish Lions rugby union side during their 2005 tour of New Zealand.

State-run media in many countries also engage in spin by selectively allowing news stories that are favorable to the government while censoring anything that could be considered critical. They may also use propaganda to indoctrinate or actively influence citizens' opinions. Privately run media also uses the same techniques of 'issue' versus 'non-issue' to spin it's particular political viewpoints.

Meet and Greet

Many businesses and organizations will use a Meet and Greet as a method of introducing two or more parties to each other in a comfortable setting. These will generally involve some sort of incentive, usually food catered from restaurants, to encourage employees or members to participate

There are opposing schools of thought as to how the specific mechanics of a Meet and Greet operate. The Gardiner school of thought states that unless specified as an informal event, all parties should arrive promptly at the time at which the event is scheduled to start. The Kolanowski school of thought, however, states that parties may arrive at any time after the event begins, in order to provide a more relaxed interaction environment.

Other

  • Publicity events, pseudo-events, photo ops or publicity stunts
  • The talk show circuit. A PR spokesperson (or his/her client) "does the circuit" by being interviewed on television and radio talk shows with audiences that the client wishes to reach.
  • Books and other writings
  • Blogs
  • After a PR practitioner has been working in the field for a while, he or she accumulates a list of contacts in the media and elsewhere in the public affairs sphere. This "Rolodex" becomes a prized asset, and job announcements sometimes even ask for candidates with an existing Rolodex, especially those in the media relations area of PR.
  • Direct communication (carrying messages directly to constituents, rather than through the mass media) with, e.g., newsletters – in print and e-letters.
  • Collateral literature, traditionally in print and now predominantly as web sites.
  • Speeches to constituent groups and professional organizations; receptions; seminars, and other events; personal appearances.
  • The slang term for a PR practitioner or publicist is a "flak" (sometimes spelled "flack").

Politics and civil society

Defining the opponent

A tactic used in political campaigns is known as "defining one's opponent." Opponents can be candidates, organizations and other groups of people.

In the 2004 US presidential campaign, George W. Bush defined John Kerry as a "flip-flopper," among other characterizations, which were widely reported and repeated by the media, particularly the conservative media. Similarly, George H.W. Bush characterized Michael Dukakis as weak on crime (the Willie Horton ad) and as hopelessly liberal ("a card-carrying member of the ACLU"). In 1996, President Bill Clinton seized upon opponent Bob Dole's promise to take America back to a simpler time, promising in contrast to "build a bridge to the 21st century." This painted Dole as a person who was somehow opposed to progress.

In the debate over abortion, self-titled pro-choice groups, by virtue of their name, defined their opponents as "anti-choice", while self-titled pro-life groups refer to their opponents as "pro-abortion" or "anti-life".

Managing language

If a politician or organization can use an apt phrase in relation to an issue, such as in interviews or news releases, the news media will often repeat it verbatim, without questioning the aptness of the phrase. This perpetuates both the message and whatever preconceptions might underlie it. Often, something innocuous sounding can stand in for something greater; a "culture of life" sounds like general goodwill to most people, but will evoke opposition to abortion for many pro-life advocates. The phrase "States' rights" was used as a code for anti-civil rights legislation in the United States in the 1960s, and, allegedly, the 70s, and 80s.

Front groups

One of the most controversial practices in public relations is the use of front groups—organizations that purport to serve a public cause while actually serving the interests of a client whose sponsorship may be obscured or concealed. Critics of the public relations industry, such as PR Watch, have contended that Public Relations involves a "multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry" that "concoct[s] and spin[s] the news, organize[s] phoney 'grassroots' front groups, sp[ies] on citizens, and conspire[s] with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy."

Instances of the use of front groups as a PR technique have been documented in many industries. Coal mining corporations have created environmental groups that contend that increased CO2 emissions and global warming will contribute to plant growth and will be beneficial, trade groups for bars have created and funded citizens' groups to attack anti-alcohol groups, tobacco companies have created and funded citizens' groups to advocate for tort reform and to attack personal injury lawyers, while trial lawyers have created "consumer advocacy" front groups to oppose tort reform.

References

Notes

  • Bernays, Edward (1945). Public Relations. Boston, MA: Bellman Publishing Company.
  • Burson, Harold (2004). E pluribus unum: The Making of Burson-Marsteller. New York: Burson-Marsteller.
  • Calcagni, Thomas (2007). Tough Questions, Good Answers, Taking Control of Any Interview. Sterling, VA: Capital Books, Inc.. ISBN 978-1-933102-50-4.
  • Caponigro, Jeff (2000). THE CRISIS COUNSELOR: A step-by-step guide to managing a business crisis. New York: McGraw-Hill/ Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-9659606-0-9.
  • Cutlip, Scott (1994). The Unseen Power: Public Relations, A History. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-1464-7.
  • Ewen, Stuart (1996). PR!: A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-06168-0.
  • Forman, Amanda (2001). Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire. New York: Random House USA Inc; New Ed edition. ISBN 0-037-5753834-0.
  • Grunig, James E.; and Todd Hunt (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-058337-3.
  • Hall, Phil (2007). The New PR. Mount Kisco, NY: Larstan Publishing. ISBN 0-9789182-0-7.
  • International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
  • Macnamara, Jim (2005). Jim Macnamara's Public Relations Handbook. 5th ed., Melbourne: Archipelago Press. ISBN 0-9587537-4-1.
  • Nelson, Joyce (1989). Sultans of Sleaze: Public Relations and the Media. Toronto: Between The Lines. ISBN 0-921284-22-5.
  • Phillips, David (2001). Online Public Relations. London: Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3510-0.
  • Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 10 ed. 2006 ISBN-10: 0132304511
  • Stauber, John C.; and Sheldon Rampton (1995). Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. ISBN 1-56751-061-2.
  • Tye, Larry (1998). The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & the Birth of Public Relations. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-517-70435-8.
  • Tymson, Candy; and Peter Lazar (2006). Public Relations Manual. Sydney: Tymson Communications. ISBN 0-9579130-1-X.
  • Stoykov, Lubomir; and Valeria Pacheva (2005). Public Relations and Business Communication. Sofia: Ot Igla Do Konetz. ISBN 954-9799-09-3.
  • Scott M. Cutlip/ Allen H. Center/ Glen M. Broom, "Effective Public Relations," 7th Ed., Prentice-Hall, Inc. A Simon and Schuster Company, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 07632, 1994, Figure 10-1
  • Center, Allen H. and Jackson, Patrick, "Public Relations Practices," 5th ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle, N.J., 1995, pp. 14-15
  • Crifasi, Sheila C., "Everything's Coming Up Rosie," from Public Relations Tactics, September, 2000, Vol. 7, Issue 9, Public Relations Society of America, New York, 2000.
  • Kelly, Kathleen S., "Effective Fund Raising Management," Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, N.J., 1998
  • Wilcox, D.L., Ault, P.H., Agee, W.K., & Cameron, G., "Public Relations Strategies and Tactics," 7th ed., Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, 2002
  • Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6.

See also

Further reading

  • Bernays, Edward, L. (1972) Propaganda. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press. (Originally published, 1928.)
  • Boorstin, Daniel J. (1972) The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Atheneum.
  • Ewen, Stuart. (1996) PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: BasicBooks.
  • Hall, Phil. (2007) The New PR. Mount Kisco, N.Y.: Larstan Publishing.
  • Seib, Patrick and Fitzpatrick, Kathy. (1995) Public Relations Ethics. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace and Company.

External links

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