What is PR?
Public relations is responsible for the communication between an organisation and its key stakeholders. This includes communications relating to products and technologies as well as the corporate values of the organisation. Public relations is thus a strategic function which concerns management at the highest level.
Most public relations work is undertaken by specialist PR agencies, rather than in-house marketing personnel. PR is about maintaining a good reputation for an organisation and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is a sustained effort to establish goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and the public.
Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success. Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact. They all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with - whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all organisation stakeholders.
What is PR hoping to influence?
- The most common and certainly almost universal function of public relations activity is to make people aware in some way of an organisation’s products, services, technologies and position.
- Education: Public relations is a particularly effective tool for educating markets about new technologies.
- Credibility: a key benefit of public relations as a communications medium is that it has a high degree of credibility in the mind of the receiver when compared with other marketing communications channels.
- Third party endorsement: an important driver of this credibility is that the message originates from and is therefore endorsed by a third party: frequently journalists but also other commentators and other authorities. A good technical article in a trade publication is not only read but it is believed and, the more credible the publication, the more credible the message.
- Permission to buy: consumers are no longer content to rely purely on product performance; they also need to be reassured that they are happy to do business with the organisation providing the product or service.
- Differentiation: public relations messages try to differentiate a brand from that of the competitors.
- Positioning: differentiation is delivered through positioning
- Relationship marketing: modern marketing is more about relationships than transactions and public relations endeavours to build relationships through communication that is two-way and informal in style.
How is PR delivered?
PR is mostly about media relations. Obtaining media coverage in appropriate publications is often highly effective in increasing awareness and can have a long-term cumulative effect. This is because it is a third independent party who is promoting or covering the particular organisation or its product. PR agencies are employed because they have good media contacts and often knowledge of a particular industry. They will produce press releases; hold press conferences and brief journalists individually in an attempt to obtain coverage. Publications could be national newspapers but equally important may be trade magazines.
As well as media campaigns, PR also includes speaking opportunities at conferences and seminars as well as issue led PR, where the organisation is established as a market leader in a particular field or technology.
PR agencies may also be employed when a company is dealing with a difficult or negative situation and try to ‘spin’ the publicity such that the organisation or individual looks more favourable.
To conclude public relations is nothing but an effort to present one’s organization in the best light.