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Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the communication between an organization and its publics. Public relations gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. Because public relations places exposure in credible third-party outlets, it offers a third-party legitimacy that advertising does not have. Common activities include speaking at conferences, working with the press, and employee communication. It is something that is not tangible and this is what sets it apart from Advertising.

PR can be used to build rapport with employees, customers, investors, voters, or the general public. Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations. There are number of related sister disciplines all falling under the banner of Corporate Communications, such as Analyst relations, Media Relations, Investor Relations, Internal Communications or Labor Relations.

There are many areas of public relations but the most recognized are financial public relations, product public relations, and crisis public relations.
  • Financial public relations deal with providing information mainly to business reporters.
  • Product public relations deal with gaining publicity for a particular product or service through PR tactics rather than using advertising.
  • Crisis public relations deal with responding to negative accusations or information.


The industry today

Advertising dollars in media products from corporations like News Corp., Dow Jones, and CMP are under rapid decline in favor of direct advertising products offered by search engines and other tools. Traditional media publications are laying off journalists, consolidating beat reporters, shrinking their print editions, and many publications are shutting down entirely.

Blogs have lower over-head costs than traditional media and are often said to provide better news coverage and analysis. Blogs are increasingly sprouting to replace traditional media with a more sustainable low-cost business model and are gaining more of a following.

The advent of social media is the most pre-eminent trend in PR today. It's important to note, while social media is on the rise, traditional media is yet to be taken over by the trend as of January 29, 2009.

Social media releases, search engine optimization, content publishing, and the introduction of podcasts and video are other burgeoning trends.

The need of public relations personnel is growing at a fast pace. The different types of clients that public relations people work for include, but are not limited to: the government, educational institutions and outlets, nonprofit organizations, specific industries, businesses and large companies, athletic teams and entertainment companies, and international opportunities.

Methods, tools and tactics

Public relations and publicity are not synonymous but many PR campaigns include provisions for publicity. Publicity is the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization, and can be seen as a result of effective PR planning.

Publics targeting

A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience, and to tailor every message to appeal to that audience. It can be a general, nationwide or worldwide audience, but it is more often a segment of a population. Marketers often refer to economy-driven "demographics," such as "black males 18-49," but in public relations an audience is more fluid, being whoever someone wants to reach. For example, recent political audiences include "soccer moms" and "NASCAR dads." There is also a psychographic grouping based on fitness level, eating preferences, "adrenaline junkies,"etc...

In addition to audiences, there are usually stakeholders, literally people who have a "stake" in a given issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, a charity commissions a PR agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease. The charity and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who is likely to donate money.

Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders common to a PR effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but still complementary messages. This is not always easy to do, and sometimes especially in politics a spokesperson or client says something to one audience that angers another audience or group of stakeholders.

Lobby groups

Lobby groups are established to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion. An example of this is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, which influences American foreign policy. Such groups claim to represent a particular interest and in fact are dedicated to doing so. When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base it is known as a front group. Moreover, governments may also lobby public relations firms in order to sway public opinion. A well illustrated example of this is the way civil war in Yugoslavia was portrayed. Governments of newly succeeded republics of Croatia and Bosnia invested heavily with American PR firms, so that the PR firms would give them a positive war image in the US.

Spin

In public relations, "spin" is sometimes a pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favour of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, "spin" often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused of spin by commentators and political opponents, when they produce a counter argument or position.

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial," phrasing in a way that assumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news. A famous reference to this practice occurred when British Government press officer Jo Moore used the phrase It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury, (widely paraphrased or misquoted as "It's a good day to bury bad news"), in an email sent on September 11, 2001. The furor caused when this email was reported in the press eventually caused her to resign.

Spin doctors

Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors," despite the negative connotation associated with the term. It is the PR equivalent of calling a writer a "hack." Perhaps the most well-known person in the UK often described as a "spin doctor" is Alastair Campbell, who was involved with Tony Blair's public relations between 1994 and 2003, and also played a controversial role as press relations officer to the British and Irish Lions rugby union side during their 2005 tour of New Zealand.

State-run media in many countries also engage in spin by selectively allowing news stories that are favorable to the government while censoring anything that could be considered critical. They may also use propaganda to indoctrinate or actively influence citizens' opinions. Privately run media also uses the same techniques of 'issue' versus 'non-issue' to spin its particular political viewpoints.

Meet and Greet

Many businesses and organizations will use a Meet and Greet as a method of introducing two or more parties to each other in a comfortable setting. These will generally involve some sort of incentive, usually food catered from restaurants, to encourage employees or members to participate.

There are opposing schools of thought as to how the specific mechanics of a Meet and Greet operate. The Gardiner school of thought states that unless specified as an informal event, all parties should arrive promptly at the time at which the event is scheduled to start. The Kolanowski school of thought, however, states that parties may arrive at any time after the event begins, in order to provide a more relaxed interaction environment.

Other

  • Publicity events, pseudo-events, photo ops or publicity stunts.
  • The talk show circuit. A PR spokesperson (or his/her client) "does the circuit" by being interviewed on television and radio talk shows with audiences that the client wishes to reach.
  • Books and other writings.
  • Blogs.
  • After a PR practitioner has been working in the field for a while, he or she accumulates a list of contacts in the media and elsewhere in the public affairs sphere. This "Rolodex" becomes a prized asset, and job announcements sometimes even ask for candidates with an existing Rolodex, especially those in the media relations area of PR.
  • Direct communication (carrying messages directly to constituents, rather than through the mass media) with, e.g., newsletters – in print and e-letters.
  • Collateral literature, traditionally in print and now predominantly as web sites.
  • Speeches to constituent groups and professional organizations; receptions; seminars, and other events; personal appearances.
  • The slang term for a PR practitioner or publicist is a "flack" (sometimes spelled "flak").
  • A DESK VISIT is where the PR person literally takes their product to the desk of the journalist in order to show them what they are promoting.
  • Astroturfing is the act of PR agencies placing blog and online forum messages for their clients, in the guise of a normal "grassroots" user or comment.
  • Online Social Media.


Politics and civil society

Defining the opponent

A tactic used in political campaigns is known as "defining one's opponent." Opponents can be candidates, organizations and other groups of people.

In the 2004 US presidential campaign, Howard Dean defined John Kerry as a "flip-flopper," which was widely reported and repeated by the media, particularly the conservative media. Similarly, George H.W. Bush characterized Michael Dukakis as weak on crime (the Willie Horton ad) and hopelessly liberal ("a card-carrying member of the ACLU"). In 1996, President Bill Clinton seized upon opponent Bob Dole's promise to take America back to a simpler time, promising in contrast to "build a bridge to the 21st century." This painted Dole as a person who was somehow opposed to progress.

In the debate over abortion, self-titled pro-choice groups, by virtue of their name, defined their opponents as "anti-choice", while self-titled pro-life groups refer to their opponents as "pro-abortion" or "anti-life".

Managing language

If a politician or organization can use an apt phrase in relation to an issue, such as in interviews or news releases, the news media will often repeat it verbatim, without questioning the aptness of the phrase. This perpetuates both the message and whatever preconceptions might underlie it. Often, something innocuous sounding can stand in for something greater; a "culture of life" sounds like general goodwill to most people, but will evoke opposition to abortion for many pro-life advocates. The phrase "States' rights" was used as a code for anti-civil rights legislation in the United States in the 1960s, and, allegedly, the 70s, and 80s.

Conveying the message

The method of communication can be as important as a message. Direct mail, robocalling, advertising and public speaking are used depending upon the intended audience and the message that is conveyed. Press releases are also used, but since many newspapers are folding, they have become a less reliable way of communicating, and other methods have become more popular.

Arts organizations have begun to rely more on their own websites and have developed a variety of unique approaches to publicity and public relations, on and off the web.

The country of Israelmarker has recently employed a series of Web 2.0 initiatives, including a blog, MySpace page, YouTube channel, Facebook page and a political blog to reach different audiences. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs started the country's video blog as well as its political blog. The Foreign Ministry held the first microblogging press conference via Twitter about its war with Hamas, with Consul David Saranga answering live questions from a worldwide public in common text-messaging abbreviations. The questions and answers were later posted on IsraelPolitik, the country's official political blog.

Front groups

One of the most controversial practices in public relations is the use of front groups organizations that purport to serve a public cause while actually serving the interests of a client whose sponsorship may be obscured or concealed. Critics of the public relations industry, such as PR Watch, have contended that Public Relations involves a "multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry" that "concoct[s] and spin[s] the news, organize[s] phoney 'grassroots' front groups, sp[ies] on citizens, and conspire[s] with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy." [4018].

Instances of the use of front groups as a PR technique have been documented in many industries. Coal mining corporations have created environmental groups that contend that increased CO2 emissions and global warming will contribute to plant growth and will be beneficial, trade groups for bars have created and funded citizens' groups to attack anti-alcohol groups, tobacco companies have created and funded citizens' groups to advocate for tort reform and to attack personal injury lawyers, while trial lawyers have created "consumer advocacy" front groups to oppose tort reform.[4019][4020][4021]

See also



Notes

  1. Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
  2. Answers.com Marketing Dictionary: Public Relations. Retrieved August 7, 2008
  3. Paul Gillin (2008) Newspaper Death Watch. Retrieved August 29, 2008
  4. Brian Caulfield (2007) " Bye-Bye, Business 2.0" Forbes. Retrieved August 29, 2008
  5. Paul (2008) "8 Public Relations Trends to Watch" Retrieved August 29, 2008.
  6. http://mashable.com/2009/01/29/stats-old-media-decline/
  7. See Peter Viggo Jakobsen, Focus on the CNN Effect Misses the Point: The Real Media Impact on Conflict Management is Invisible and Indirect, Journal of Peace Research, vol.37, no.2. Institute of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (2000).
  8. [http://thefastertimes.com/theatertalk/2009/08/13/promoting-theater-in-a-world-without-print/
  9. Israel Video Blog aims to show the world 'the beautiful face of real Israel', Ynet, February 24, 2008.
  10. Israel seeks friends through MySpace page, Bobby Johnson, The Guardian, March 23, 2007.
  11. Israel uses YouTube, Twitter to share its point of view, CNN, December 31, 2008
  12. Israel's New York Consulate launches Facebook page, Ynet, December 14, 2007.
  13. Latest PR venture of Israel's diplomatic mission in New York attracts large Arab audience, Ynet, June 21, 2007.
  14. Battlefront Twitter, HAVIV RETTIG GUR, The Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2008.
  15. The Toughest Q's Answered in the Briefest Tweets, Noam Cohen, The New York Times, January 3, 2009; accessed January 5, 2009.


References

  • Biagi, S. (2005). Media/Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media. Chicago: Thomas Wadsworth.
  • International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
  • Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 10 ed. 2006 ISBN 0132304511
  1. Scott M. Cutlip/ Allen H. Center/ Glen M. Broom, "Effective Public Relations," 7th Ed., Prentice-Hall, Inc. A Simon and Schuster Company, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 07632, 1994, Figure 10-1
  2. Center, Allen H. and Jackson, Patrick, "Public Relations Practices," 5th ed., Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle, N.J., 1995, pp. 14-15
  3. Crifasi, Sheila C., "Everything's Coming Up Rosie," from Public Relations Tactics, September, 2000, Vol. 7, Issue 9, Public Relations Society of America, New York, 2000.
  4. Kelly, Kathleen S., "Effective Fund Raising Management," Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, N.J., 1998
  5. Wilcox, D.L., Ault, P.H., Agee, W.K., & Cameron, G., "Public Relations Strategies and Tactics," 7th ed., Allyn & Bacon, Boston, MA, 2002
  6. Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6.


Further reading

  • Edward Bernays. (1928) "Propaganda".
  • Boorstin, Daniel J. (1972) The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Atheneum.
  • Ewen, Stuart. (1996) PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: BasicBooks.
  • Hall, Phil. (2007) The New PR. Mount Kisco, N.Y.: Larstan Publishing.
  • LA YEllow Shuttle. ‘
  • Seib, Patrick and Fitzpatrick, Kathy. (1995) Public Relations Ethics. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace and Company.


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