What is Public Relations (PR)

Good PR will give a business a good public standing

Public Relations is about reputation  —  creating and maintaining it.  It is the result of how you act and what you say and how you say it, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics. Whether that's employees, customers, investors, the local community or all of those stakeholder groups.

PR is often confused with some of its functional parts, such as publicity, press-agentry (e.g. celebrity stories, movies, sports events), product promotion, propaganda, institutional advertising or events. These may be part of the whole of PR, but the sum of the parts does not equal the whole by far. Below is a broad outline of PR's function and purpose.

Public Relations is planned effort to influence opinion through
acceptable performance and two-way communication

Public Relations can play a critical role in achieving a competitive advantage, for instance when opening new markets, gaining major new business alliances, attracting high-calibre employees, giving more access to funding and investors, creating a high value for products and services, and protecting businesses in times of crisis. All organisations, whether local or international, big or small, can benefit from PR.

We can provide all professional services for your PR requirements

Every Day, Common Sense PR

PR practice means a multitude of little things and a few big things.

It is the daily application of common sense, common courtesy and common decency, including personal appearance and "good manners PR". It can be doing a favour for someone else. It can be pleading a cause in the arena of public opnion. It can be entertaining a visitor. It can be the preparation of a speech, or giving one. It can be a press conference, or the dedication of a new building. It can be as important as providing counsel that leads management toward resolving a difficult situation. It can be helping a newspaper correspondent to get his story from a press-shy executive. It can be writing a letter to a hurt, irate parent whose son has been expelled from college. It comprises a multitude of things in an immense variety in the name of public relations.

What Matters in PR

A fundamental fact is that we are often are more influenced by the way an event is interpreted than we are by the event itself. The act of an energy company raising its prices can be interprted as a necessary move to ensure adequate profits, or it can be interpreted as a harmful act inducing inflation. The PR practitioner's efforts are focussed on directing the best possible interpretation of the acts of the organisation and it's mission.

  • Is it all Noise? Emphatically not   —   and in PR, "untruths" always rebound
  • Healthy relationships with all publics on whom our success depends
  • Bringing about desired opinion and behavioral change
  • Telling the truth and doing the right thing

The Function of PR

The function of PR is to build profitable relationships with the public. The common purpose of all that is labeled Public Relations is to influence public opinion. The practice of PR is founded on the premise that only an informed public can be a wise public.

The work of many PR firms and advertising agency PR departments is mainly the promotion of a firm's products or services — getting a free ride for the products or services in the news media. Here, the basic public relations function is to build confidence in the manufacturer or provider of the products.

Much of the PR tools involves publicity —  but it not the whole of PR. Publicity involves the release of information deemed newsworthy, such as an annual report of a public company or new scientific findings but also the staging of newsworthy events such as ground-breakings, dedications, anniversary celebrations, seminars and other newsworthy events.

The core of PR is emphatic listening and persuasive communication. To accomplish these functions, a wide variety of tasks are discharged. The path of public relations is to gain and hold the favourable opinion of the publics of an industry or institution.

In PR, there is no such thing as "The Public" or "The General Public". Each industry or institution holds its specific groups of interest, each group called "a public". Each public has its own perceptions, needs, opinions and preferences. There are for instance employee relations, community relations, shareholder relations, customer relations, government relations, education relations, press relations, public relations. A PR programme must be tailored to the industry and specific public it serves.

There is no easy road to public favour. The smoothest way is sound public relationships built on good performance and sound communication practices — the importance of doing a good job and letting everyone know about it.

Good Performance Publicly Appreciated

"Public Relations is the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends".
(Cutlip & Center, "Effective Public Relations")

Implicit in these descriptions is the threefold function of the PR practitioner:

  • To ascertain and evaluate public opinion
  • To counsel management how to deal with public opinion as it exists
  • To use communication to influence public opinion.

The Basic Premise of PR

The basic premise of PR is "people are essentially rational by nature; they respond to facts and want the truth; and they will ultimately find it and act upon it". There is abundant evidence in history to substantiate this faith.

A sure, sensitive reading of the changing environment can be the PR practitioner's most valuable service to his organisation. He is essentially a specialist in two-way communication - also described as "human engineering". It's "doing the right thing and getting credit for it" or "good conduct coupled with good reporting" or "earned recognition" or "good works well publicised" or "effective cause well demonstrated". The compounded principle is "good performance made widely and favourably known".


PR's Place in the Organisation

It is important to understand where PR fits witin the overall structure of the organisation and who is responsible for it. The confusions surrounding the PR function are cleared away if we understand the distinction between public relations as a concept of management and public relations as a specialised staff function in management. But it esssentially remains a management function. PR specialists are not hired as managers. They are there to interpret management policy and objectives with good two-way communication, either as external practitioner or staff.

Recommended reading: "Effective Public Relations" - Cutlip & Center

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