Introduction to Public Relations

English: Network diagram showing interlocks be...

Effective public relations are a process and its essential first step is research. Nowadays, research is widely accepted by public relations professionals as an integral part of the planning, program development, and evaluation process. Before a public relations program is undertaken, information must be gathered, data collected, and interpretation done. Only after the first step is performed, organizations can begin to make policy decisions and map out strategies for effective communication programs.

The second step in the public relations process, after research, is program planning. Prior to the implementation of a public relations activity, it is essential that considerable thought must be given to what should be done and in what sequence to accomplish an organization’s objectives.

A good public relations program should be an effective tool to support an organization’s business, marketing, and communications objectives. In other words, public relations planning should be strategic. A practitioner must think about a situation, analyze what can be done about it, creatively conceptualize the appropriate strategies and tactics, and determine how the results will be measured. Planning also involves the co-ordination of multiple methods to achieve specific results.

Developing a systematic planning prevents haphazard, ineffective communication that may result in unexpected outcomes. Thus, public relations managers need to follow a well-designed program plan that will help them execute their programs effectively and provide the desired results after the completion of the public relations program.

Moreover, business communications, especially those introduced by public relations departments, can present ethical questions. False and misleading advertising is illegal and unethical, and it can infuriate customers. Sponsors and advertisements aimed at children must be very careful to avoid misleading messages. Advertisers of health-related products must also take precautions to guard against deception when using such descriptive terms as “low fat”, “fat free2, and “light”. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has issued recent guidelines on the use of these labels.

Finally, public relations companies have introduced the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is the recognition that business activities have an impact on society and the consideration of that impact in business decision-making. Obviously, social responsibility costs money. It is perhaps not so obvious that social responsibility is also good business. Customers eventually find out which firm is acting responsibly and which does not. Young public relations professionals should always keep in mind, that just as easily as consumers decide to cast their dollar votes for a product produced by a company that is socially responsible, they can vote against the firm that is not.

The Important Role Of Public Relations

Public relations is fundamentally the art and science of establishing relationships between an organization and its key audiences. Public relations plays a key role in helping business industries create strong relationships with customers.

Public relations involves supervising and assessing public attitudes, and maintaining mutual relations and understanding between an organization and its public. The function of public relations is to improve channels of communication and to institute new ways of setting up a two-way flow of information and understanding.

Public relations is effective in helping:

* Corporations convey information about their products or services to potential customers

* Corporations reach local government and legislators

* Politicians attract votes and raise money, and craft their public image and legacy

* Non-profit organizations, including schools, hospitals, social service agencies etc. boost support of their programs such as awareness programs, fund-raising programs, and to increase patronage of their services

Public relations in present times employs diverse techniques such as opinion polling and focus groups to evaluate public opinion, combined with a variety of high-tech techniques for distributing information on behalf of their clients, including the internet, satellite feeds, broadcast faxes, and database-driven phone banks.

As public image is important to all organizations and prominent personalities the role of public relations specialist becomes pertinent in crisis situations. Public relations agencies provide important and timely transmission of information that helps save the face of the organization. In the words of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “Public relations helps an organization and its public adopt mutually to one another.”

Experienced public relations agencies have formulation press releases into which they can plug the company news, as well as a targeted list of publications for their industry. Truly good public relations agencies generally have a good working relationship with key reporters, boosting their chances of getting coverage. Some public relations agencies deal only with large, established clients, while smaller boutique public relations agencies specialize in certain areas.

At present public relations as a career option exists in private companies or government institutions that actively market their product, service and facilities. Public relations training courses are widespread in educational institutions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 122,000 public relations specialists in the United States in 1998 and approximately 485,000 advertising, marketing, and public relations managers working in all industries.

Most public relations practitioners are recruited from the ranks of journalism. Public relations officers are highly trained professionals with expertise and knowledge in many areas, for example shareholder management during a crisis, the evolving role of the in-house public relations professional, account management skills for public relations, an introduction to financial public relations, an introduction to consumer public relations, an introduction to public relations software etc.

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