Public Relations is a very generic term that covers a whole area of communication, marketing, profile raising and management strategy. It is all about how an organisation is seen by the world outside, the message it sends and the public’s identification with its service or product.
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA): “Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics”.
The means through which important information is conveyed are manifold, and often vary according to the nature of the target audience. For instance a company communicating with its own workforce would be unlikely to use a public medium such as a newspaper advertisement to pass its information on, whilst similarly news of a new product aiming to achieve mass circulation would not be usefully served by mere inclusion as a footnote in the company’s monthly newsletter.
Edward Bernays, considered by many to be the founder of modern PR, said it was “a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organisation…followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance”.
The key to Bernays’ analysis lies in an understanding of the role of management to identify public attitudes and to use them as a means through which to inform company policy, thus responding to a need rather than having to create one.
Once one understands this principle and employs it as a benchmark around which a company’s strategy can be built, it is simply a question of taking advantage of the various media available for spreading the company message to maximum effect.
Developing an organisation’s PR requires an understanding of all that is effective in the modern world for communicating with the target audience. This takes us well beyond conventional advertising and into the realm of web development, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media. It means building a presence in each and every area of activity and of developing that presence around a corporate message that is short and catchy but which at the same time is able to offer a subliminal snapshot of the product itself.
In essence, we are describing a complete marketing solution, an integrated PR strategy for information and reputation management.
PR then is about more than sending out good news to as wide an audience as possible. It is equally about managing the message so that the public perception of a product or service is the one which you wish it to have.
Mark Richards is a professional writer working for The Middle Man, a web-based business marketing agency. He also publishes A Blog About SEO.
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