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If Your PR Firm Isn't Saying "No," Start Looking For A New One

If Your PR Firm Isn't Saying "No," Start Looking For A New One

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Published by: stevestern on Mar 08, 2012
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03/08/2012

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OR CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTITIONER In most savvy and mature organizations today, the public relations function is a ccorded a prominent role in management decision making. Frequently, the senior p ublic relations manager reports directly to top management; generally to the chi ef executive officer. The reason for this is simple: If public relations is to b e the interpreter of management, then it must know what management is thinking a t any moment on virtually every public issue. If public relations is made subord inate to any other discipline, e.g. marketing, advertising, legal or administrat ion, then its independence, credibility, and, ultimately, value as an objective management counselor will be sacrificed. Whereas marketing and advertising groups must, by definition, be defenders of th eir specific products, the public relations department has no such mandated alle giance. Public relations should be the corporate conscience. An organization’s pub lic relations professionals should enjoy enough autonomy to tell it to managemen t “like it is.” If an idea doesn’t make sense, if a product is flawed, if the general institutional wisdom is wrong, it is the duty of the public relations profession al to challenge the consensus. And, in absolute candor, if your company’s PR funct ion isn’t saying “no” with great vigor from time to time, you’re probably not being well served and could well be headed for problems. This is not to say that advertising, marketing, and all other disciplines should n’t enjoy a close partnership with public relations. Clearly, they must. All disci plines must work to maintain their own independence while building long-term, mu tually beneficial relationships for the good of the organization. However, publi c relations should never shirk its overriding responsibility to enhance the orga nization’s credibility by ensuring that corporate actions are in the public intere st. Public relations managers should function at the edge of an organization as a li aison between the organization and its external and internal publics. In other w ords, public relations managers have one foot inside the organization and one ou tside. Often, this unique position is not only lonely, but also precarious. As boundary managers, public relations people support their colleagues by helpin g them communicate across organizational lines both within and outside the organ ization. In this way public relations professionals also become systems managers , knowledgeable of and able to deal with the complex relationships inherent in t he organization. They must consider the relationship of the organization to its environment: The ties that unite business managers and operations support staff, for example, and the conflicts that separate them. They must work within organizational confines to develop innovative, solutions t o organizational problems. By definition, public relations managers deal in a di fferent environment from that of their organizational colleagues. The amorphous world of perceptions, attitudes, and public opinion, in which public relations m anagers dwell, is alien to the core empirical, quantitative, concrete domain of other business man-agers. Public relations managers, therefore, must be innovati ve, not only proposing communications solutions, but also in making them underst andable and acceptable to colleagues. They must think strategically. Public relations managers must demonstrate their knowledge of the organization’s mission, objectives, and strategies. Their solutio ns must answer the real needs of the organization. They must reflect the big pic ture. Business managers will care little that the company’s name was mentioned in the morning paper unless they can recognize the strategic rationale for the refe rence. In managing an organization’s public relations system, practitioners must demonstr

ate a comfort with the various elements of the organization •Functions, the real jobs of organizational components; •Structure, the organizational hierarchy of individuals and •Processes, the formal decision-making rules and procedures ws; and •Feedback, the formal and informal evaluative mechanisms of

itself: positions; the organization follo the organization.

Such a theoretical overview is important to consider in properly situating the p ractice of public relations as a management system within an organization, or us ing an external agency. Planning for Public Relations like research, planning in public relations is ess ential not only to know where a particular campaign is headed, but also to win t he support of top management. Indeed, one of the most frequent complaints about public relations is that it is too much a seat-of the-pants activity, impossible to plan and difficult to measure. Clearly, planning in public relations must be given maximum consideration. Befor e organizing for a public relations program, practitioners must consider objecti ves and strategies, planning and budgets, and research and evaluation. The broad environment in which the organization operates must dictate overall business ob jectives. These, in sum, dictate specific public relations objectives and strate gies. And once these have been defined, the task of organizing for a public rel ations program should flow naturally. In order to develop a comprehensive, strategic communications campaign, it is cr itical to understand the responsibilities of the public relations function, whet her it is internal or an external agency. The following is how Stern And Company sees it: Reaching the employees and/or strategic partners through a variety of internal m eans, including newsletters, television, and meetings. Traditionally, this role has emphasized news-oriented communications rather than benefits oriented ones, which are usually the province of personnel departments. Coordinating relationships with the media, which includes arranging and monitori ng press interviews, writing news releases and related press materials, organizi ng press conferences, and answering media inquiries and requests. Coordinating activities with legislators on local, state, and federal levels. Th is includes legislative research activities and public policy formation. Coordinating the institution’s printed voice to its key publics through reprints o f speeches, annual reports, quarterly statements, and product and company brochu res. Coordinating relationships with outside specialty groups, such as suppliers, edu cators, students, nonprofit organizations, and competitors. Managing the institutional, or non-product advertising image, as well as being c alled on to assist in the management of more traditional product advertising. Conducting opinion research, which involves assisting in the public policy forma tion process through the coordination and interpretation of attitudinal studies of key publics. Managing the gift-giving apparatus, which ordinarily consists of screening and e valuating philanthropic proposals and allocating the organization’s available reso urces.

Management counseling, which involves advising administrators on alternative opt ions and recommended choices in light of public responsibilities.

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