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For downloading this essay and for more essays, papers, reports, study notes and more can always be found at: http://schoolessay.jimdo.com -------------------------------------Public relations (PR) is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization leaders, and implementing planned programs of action which will serve both the organization's and the public interest. By stating that PR practice is an art implies the element of specialized skill, knowledge and methods involved. It also implies that PR practice is not completely objective, as there are subjective factors involved. PR practice deals with the human element, which is by nature unpredictable; therefore not completely objective. PR practice also considers the inputs which social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, anthropology, and statistics) can contribute. For example, a PR practitioner would have to consider cultural factors when planning a program or campaign for its targeted publics so that there would be less risk of unintentionally offending other segments of the society. Public relations is also internal and external communication to inform or influence specific publics using writing, marketing, advertising, publicity, promotions, and special events. Some public relations specialists work as full-time employees of companies, politicians, nonprofit organizations, or governments; while others work for PR agencies or as free-lance PR consultants that contract their services to clients (usually corporations, wealthy individuals or other special interests) who pay for their expertise at keeping them in or out of the spotlight, whichever is necessary. According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), one of the profession's leading trade associations, public relations "has been defined in many widely differing ways. Not unsurprisingly, the earliest definitions emphasized the roles of press agentry and publicity since these were major elements from which modern public relations grew." More recently, the PR industry has pushed to redefine itself as a management function. From a more critical perspective, public relations is sometimes also referred to as the manufacturing of consent. The practice of public relations is often disparaged using terms such as "spin," and public relations practitioners are sometimes characterized as "spin doctors." The precursors to public relations can be found in the publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles. Many PR practitioners have also been recruited from the ranks of journalism and have used their understanding of the news media to ensure that their clients receive favorable media coverage. The First World War also helped stimulate the development of public relations as a profession. Many of the first PR professionals got their start with the Committee for Public Information (also known as the Creel Committee), which organized publicity on behalf of U.S. objectives during World War I. Some historians regard this era as the first real practitioners of public relations. Ivy Lee, who has been credited with "inventing" PR news releases, espoused a philosophy consistent with what has sometimes been called the "two-way street" approach to public relations, in which PR consists of helping clients listen as well as communicate messages to their publics. In the words of the PRSA, "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other." In practice, however, Lee often engaged in one-way propagandizing on behalf of clients despised by the public, including robber baron John D. Rockefeller. His career ended in scandal, when the U.S. Congress held hearings to investigate his work on behalf of Nazi Germany in the years immediately preceding World War II. Bernays was the profession's first theorist. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays drew many of his ideas from Freud's theories about the irrational, unconscious motives that shape human behavior. Bernays saw public relations as an "applied social science" that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipulate the thinking and behavior of an irrational and "herdlike" public. "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society," he wrote in Propaganda. "Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country." One of Bernays' early clients was the tobacco industry. In 1929, he orchestrated a legendary publicity stunt aimed at
persuading women to take up cigarette smoking, which was then considered unfeminine and inappropriate for women with any social standing. To counter this image, Bernays arranged for New York City debutantes to march in that year's Easter Day Parade, defiantly smoking cigarettes as a statement of rebellion against the norms of a maledominated society. Photographs of what Bernays dubbed the "Torches of Liberty Brigade" were sent to newspapers, and many women were fooled into taking up the cause, demanding to be admitted into previously all-male smoking clubs in the belief that this was an important step in the struggle for gender equality. Tobacco companies have been grateful ever since for Bernays' success in overcoming the "taboo" against female smoking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations specialists held approximately 122,000 jobs in 1998, while there were approximately 485,000 advertising, marketing, and public relations managers working in all industries. Modern public relations uses a variety of techniques including 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 satellite feeds, the Internet, broadcast faxes, and database-driven phone banks to recruit supporters for a client's cause. The skills and techniques used to manage the public have also expanded over the years. According to the PRSA, "Examples of the knowledge that may be required in the professional practice of public relations include communication arts, psychology, social psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and the principles of management and ethics. Technical knowledge and skills are required for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail, institutional advertising, publications, film/video productions, special events, speeches, and presentations." In addition to corporations, public relations practitioners serve a variety of institutions in society including trade unions, government agencies, schools, and nonprofit organizations. Practitioners aspire to managerial rather than functional status within the institutions they serve. A number of PR-related disciplines exist, many with names that reflect the industry's desire to be seen as managers rather than mere publicists. Those disciplines include: crisis management, reputation management, news management, opinion management, perception management, outrage management, issue management, public affairs, investor relations, and labor relations, to name a few. Many of the techniques used by PR firms are drawn from the institutions and practices of democracy itself. Persuasion, advocacy, and education are instruments through which individuals and organizations are entitled to express themselves in a free society, and many public relations practitioners are engaged in practices that are innocuous or even beneficial to the public, such as helping publicize university research findings, planning charity fundraisers, or designing course catalogs for community colleges. However, a number of strong criticisms of public relations have been made over the years. One of the most pernicious public relations strategies is the creation of front groups, organizations that purport to serve a public cause while actually serving the interests of a client whose sponsorship may be concealed. The creation of front groups is an example of what PR practitioners sometimes term the third party technique, the art of "putting your words in someone else's mouth." Beyond the ethical problems with this practice, public relations poses another, deeper challenge to society: Does the organized practice of propaganda by corporations, governments, and other powerful institutions really serve the interests of democracy and human freedom? Critics of the profession see public relations as a fundamentally reactionary response to the perceived danger of ordinary people thinking for themselves or implementing alternative economic and social models. Public Relations is a field which is viewed with much skepticism by the American public, journalists, students, and even public relations practitioners. Actions must be taken to change the unethical image these people hold of public relations. Several solutions have been offered by practitioners, including instilling moral values in the home, educating about ethical/unethical behavior, hiring more honest practitioners, rewarding and publicizing good conduct, and governmentally regulating the licensing of practitioners. In my opinion, all of these propositions are unfeasible, be it because the solution would be too difficult to implement, or because it is an infringement of first amendment rights. The way to reverse the unethical perception of public relations is to develop a universal code of ethics. None of the four arguments popularly cited against a universal code is problematic to such a task. A universal code, in fact, can be devised which will be satisfactory to those within different social/cultural/geopolitical systems, notwithstanding the gray areas of cultural values which may be present within such specific systems. Public relations practitioners should establish a professional model similar to that of Certified Public Accountants, recognizing that much of what they do professionally cannot be exclusionary. Globally, they can be confident that there is a plenitude of shared ethical values, and those which are within differing areas of moral taste can be discussed, universally accepted or negotiated. A universal code of professional ethics for public relations is conceivable.
References Kruckeberg, Dean. Universal Ethics Code: Both Possible and Feasible. Public Relations Review Spring (1993): 2130. PR Week, an industry trade publication, covers PR from a largely sympathic point of view PR Watch, a publication of the Center for Media & Democracy, specializes in exposing deceptive and manipulative public relations campaigns About Public Relations, by the Public Relations Society of America Larry Tye, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations (1998) John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry (1995) Scott Cutlip, The Unseen Power: Public Relations: A History Lawrence J. Gittman. Financial analysis for managers Volume I.
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