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A Closer Look at Public Relations

A Closer Look at Public Relations

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Published by Karyn N. Lewis
Research paper in association with Public Relations Writing 0535-464-01 - Rochester Institute of Technology Winter 2007
Research paper in association with Public Relations Writing 0535-464-01 - Rochester Institute of Technology Winter 2007

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Published by: Karyn N. Lewis on Jan 03, 2009
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Karyn Lewis PR Writing 0535-464-01 20072 Additional Assignment

A Closer Look at Public Relations

Public relations professionals are essentially image shapers, working to generate positive publicity for a client and enhance their overall reputation (Career: Public Relations). The field includes ongoing activities that operate to ensure a company has a strong overall public image (McNamara). The client can be a company, an individual, or even the government. Public relations professionals may handle consumer relations, relationships within and among a company—such as managers and employees—or different branch offices, and typically involves the dissemination of information (Career: Public Relations). Success depends on communication skills in print, in person and on the phone. PR professionals cultivate and maintain contacts with journalists, set up speaking engagements, write executive speeches and annual reports, respond to inquiries, and speak directly to the press on behalf of their client. They must keep lines of communication open between the many groups affected by a company's product and policies: consumers, shareholders, employees, and the managing body. Public relations professionals also write press releases and may be involved in producing sales or marketing material—as PR is often considered as one of the primary activities included in promotions—which requires them to keep abreast of current events and understand what stories will get the publics' attention (McNamara). The content of the work is constantly changing and unforeseen challenges arise every day. Corporations may use marketing PR to convey information about manufactured products or services to potential customers in order to support direct sales efforts or as a vehicle to reach legislators and other politicians in seeking favorable tax, regulatory, and other treatment (Public Relations). Nonprofit organizations—including schools and universities, hospitals, and human and social service agencies—may use of public relations in support of awareness programs, fund-raising programs, staff



recruiting, and to increase patronage of their services. PR may also be used by politicians aiming to attract votes or raise money.

The practice of guiding public opinion has existed as long as there were people and organizations that required it to support their agenda (Career: Public Relations). Governments were the first to launch public relations campaigns, but a number of American precursors to public relations are found in publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles (Public Relations). In the United States—where public relations has its origins—many early PR practices were also developed in support of the expansive power of the railroads. Modern public relations work to evaluate a product or public perception first through market research (Career: Public Relations). A successful public relations campaign will typically follow a fourstep model that includes research, action, communication, and evaluation, guided by management and action. A SWOT analysis of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats may also be used. Once data is collected and challenges are identified, solutions are presented in a campaign strategy to meet goals. Techniques may vary from campaign to campaign, but some of the standard tools used are press releases, press kits, satellite feeds, pod casts, web casts, wire service distribution of information, and Internet placement. Others include entertainment product placement (television, events, and celebrities), product launches, press conferences, media seminars, speechwriting, establishing partnerships, and more. A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience, and to tailor every message to appeal to that audience (Public Relations). This requires knowledge in communication arts, psychology, social psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and the principles of management and ethics. Technical knowledge and skills may also be required for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail, institutional advertising, publications, film/video productions, special events, speeches, and presentations. As industry consolidation becomes more prevalent, many organizations and individuals are choosing to retain smaller, more specialized firms as opposed to global communications firms. These



smaller firms typically specialize in only a couple of practice areas and work to have a greater understanding of their client's business. And because they deal with certain professionals with greater frequency, specialty firms often have stronger media contacts in the areas that matter most to their clients. Added benefits of smaller, specialty firms include more personal attention and accountability, as well as cost savings. There is a growing consensus that specialty firms offer more than once considered. A number of specialties exist within the field of public relations, including product placement, product launches, broadcast public relations, reputation management, issue management, investor and labor relations, grassroots PR, and crisis management (Public Relations). Employment of public relations professionals is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014 (Public Relations Specialists, 2006). The need for good public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment should spur demand for public relations professionals in organizations of all types and sizes, as the value of a company is hugely measured by the strength of its relationships with those on whom it depends for its success. With the increasing demand for corporate accountability, more emphasis will be placed on improving the image of the client, as well as on building public confidence.

An organization’s reputation, profitability, and even its continued existence can depend on the degree to which its target audience supports its goals and policies. There are five basic principles for success in PR, including honest communication, openness and consistency, fairness of actions, two-way communication, and research and evaluation. As managers recognize the importance of good public relations to the success of their organizations, they increasingly rely on public relations professionals for advice on program strategy and policy. As public relations professionals handle organizational functions such as media, community, consumer, industry, and governmental relations, political campaigns, interestgroup representation, conflict mediation, and employee and investor relations, they must have thorough understanding of the attitudes and concerns of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups (Public Relations Specialists, 2006). To do this, they must establish and maintain cooperative



relationships as well as corporate responsibility. This means more than just the pursuit of profit—they must be an agent for social change and improvement in the community. As previously mentioned, public relations professionals draft press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of PR professionals (Public Relations Specialists, 2006). Sometimes the subject is an organization and its policies toward its employees or its role in the community, but often the subject is a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment, and what an organization does to advance that issue. These professionals may also arrange and conduct programs to keep up contact between organization representatives and the public, such as speaking engagements and the convention planning. In the government, public relations professionals work to keep the public informed about the activities of agencies and officials, such as travel advisories and U.S. positions on foreign issues. Furthermore, public relations professionals may be required to write, research, prepare materials, maintain contacts, and respond to inquiries. Although public relations professionals are stereotypically seen as corporate services, the reality is that almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs at least one PR manager (Public Relations). Large organizations may even have dedicated communications departments. Government agencies, trade associations, and other non-profit organizations commonly carry out PR activities. Public relations professionals are typically concentrated in large cities, where press services and other communications facilities are available and businesses and trade associations have their headquarters (Public Relations Specialists, 2006). There is a trend, however, for public relations jobs to be dispersed throughout the Nation, closer to clients.

To function, civilization requires communication, conciliation, consensus, and cooperation—the bedrock fundamentals of the public relations function (Cutlip, 1995). No doubt there is value of history in explaining this now influential vocation's place in society and its profound effect over time on the nation's political, social, economic, and cultural life. Studying the origins of public relations can provide helpful



insight into its functions, its strengths and weaknesses, and its profound, although often unseen, impact on our society, particularly where ethics are involved. Public relations is an important management function in any organization. An effective communication plan for an organization is developed to communicate to an audience—whether internal or external—in such a way the message coincides with organizational goals and seeks to benefit mutual interests whenever possible (Career: Public Relations). They contact people, plan and research, and prepare materials for distribution. They also may handle advertising or sales promotion work to support marketing efforts. Overall, Public relations specialists create favorable attitudes among various organizations, interest groups, and the public through effective communication. As with many professions, however, the practice of public relations will probably become more specialized and nicheoriented over time.



Works Cited Career: Public Relations. (n.d.). The Princeton Review: Career Profiles. Retrieved December 7, 2007, from The Princeton Review database: http://www.princetonreview.com Cutlip, S. M. (1995). Public relations history: From the 17th to the 20th century the antecedents (D. Emeritus, Ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com McNamara, C. (n.d.). Public and Media Relations. In Free Management Library. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from Free Management Library database: http://www.managementhelp.org Public Relations. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved December 7, 2007, from Wikipedia database: http://en.wikipedia.org Public Relations Specialists. (2006, August). U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved December 8, 2007, from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics database: http://www.bls.gov

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