Monday, June 23, 2008

Public Relations - Definition and contents

Public relations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia –

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.1 PR aims to gain an organization or individual positive exposure to their key stakeholders. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press and employee communications.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) coined the first widely accepted definition of Public Relations in 19882, "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other." According to the PRSA, the essential functions of Public^ Levy, Stuart (2007) Public Relations and Integrated Communications, Lotus Press ^ Levy, Stuart (2007) Public Relations and Integrated Communications, Lotus Press Bernays, Edward (1945). Public Relations. Boston, MA: Bellman Publishing Company. Burson, Harold (2004). E pluribus unum: The Making of Burson-Marsteller. New York: Burson-Marsteller. Calcagni, Thomas (2007). Tough Questions, Good Answers, Taking Control of Any Interview. Sterling, VA: Capital Books, Inc.. ISBN 978-1-933102-50-4. Caponigro, Jeff (2000). THE CRISIS COUNSELOR Relations include research, planning, communications dialogue and evaluation. 3

Edward Louis Bernays, who is considered the founding father of modern public relations along with Ivy Lee, defined public relations as a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interest of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance," in the early 1900s(see history of public relations).

Today "Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values." (Robert L. Heath, Encyclopedia of Public Relations). Essentially it is a management function that focuses on two-way communication and fostering of mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.

There is a school of public relations that holds that it is about relationship management. Phillips, explored this concept in his paper "Towards relationship management: Public relations at the core of organisational development" paper in 2006 which lists a range of academics and practitioners who support this view.

The Industry Today
The public relations industry is most prominently separated into two camps - in-house and agency. As industry consolidation becomes more prevalent5 organizations are more often faced with a choice between boutique firms or large global agencies. Smaller firms typically specialize in only a couple topic areas so they have a greater understanding of their client's business and stronger relationships with journalists in a specific market. They are also often cheaper and grant more attention to smaller clients. [1]. Larger firms have access to more resources and experts in certain areas of public relations.

Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations. Most often one or more PR managers that work for the company works with a team of agency employees that work on several different accounts. Large organizations have larger dedicated teams for PR. [2].

Public relations is an important management function in any organization. An effective public relations plan for an organization is developed to communicate a message that coincides with organizational goals and seeks to benefit mutual interests whenever possible.

A number of specialties exist within the field of private relations, such as Investor Relations or Labor Relations.

Methods, tools and tactics
Public relations and publicity are not synonymous but many PR campaign 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.

Audience 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 "white 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. These groups claim to represent a particular interest. When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base it is known as a front group.

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. In the modern world, most PR practitioners are discouraged to use spin because it is fundamentally counterproductive to the industry's ultimate goal of building relationships with constituents.

The techniques of "spin" include Selectively presenting facts and quotes that support one's position (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial 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 doctor
Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors", though probably not to their faces unless it is said facetiously. 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.

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 schedule 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.

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
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 "flak" (sometimes spelled "flack").

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, George W. Bush defined John Kerry as a "flip-flopper," among other characterizations, which were 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 as 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. "States' rights" was used as code words for anti-civil rights legislation in the United States in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Front groups
Many of the techniques used by PR firms are drawn from the institutions and practices of democracy itself.[citation needed] 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 widely considered as beneficial, such as publicizing scientific research, promoting charities, raising awareness of public health concerns and other issues in civil society.

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. 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." PR Watch, a non-profit organization that monitors PR activities it considers to be deceptive, has published numerous examples of this technique in practice. 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." [1].

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.[2][3][4]

1. Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
2. Camden County College Web Site,
3. From the Public Relations Society of America Web site, 2001.
4. Encyclopedia of public relations by Robert L. Heath, 2005
5. Careers in Advertising and Public Relations 2006 WetFeet Insider Guide

^ Levy, Stuart (2007) Public Relations and Integrated Communications, Lotus Press
^ Levy, Stuart (2007) Public Relations and Integrated Communications, Lotus Press
^ Levy, Stuart (2007) Public Relations and Integrated Communications, Lotus Press
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