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Public relations (PR) is a profession with varying definitions because of its many functions and the differentiating perceptions held by its practitioners[1] and the public. Public relations (PR) is a profession that includes the functions of communication, community relations, crisis management, customer relations, employee relations, government affairs, industry relations, investor relations, media relations, mediation, publicity, speech-writing, and visitor relations. The first World Assembly of Public Relations Associations, held in Mexico City in August 1978, defined the practice of public relations as "the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest." [2]. Others define it as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.[3] Public relations provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that provide a third-party endorsement[4] and do not direct payment.[5] Common activities include speaking at conferences, working with the media, crisis communications, social media engagement[6], and employee communication. It is something that is not tangible; this is what sets it apart from advertising.

PR can be used to build rapport with employees, customers, investors, voters, or the general public.[5] Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations. There are a number of related disciplines falling under the banner of Corporate Communications, such as Analyst Relations, Media Relations, Investor Relations, Internal Communications and Labor Relations. PR professionals focus on building relationships that help to establish rapport with publics. Public Relations professionals must know how to write clearly, speak clearly, and think analytically. These skills are necessary because in the field of PR there is constant communication between professionals and their publics. PR professionals also have to think critically so that they can come up with resolutions to problems their clients may face.

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 - providing information mainly to business reporters.
  • Product public relations - gaining publicity for a particular product or service (rather than using advertising).
  • Crisis public relations - responding to negative accusations or information.

Contents

The industry today

The need for public relations personnel is growing at a fast pace. The types of clients that PR people work for include the government, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, specific industries, corporations, athletic teams, entertainment companies, and even countries.

The practice of public relations is spreading widely. On the professional level, there is an organization called Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). This organization is the world's largest public relations organization. PRSA is a community of more than 21,000 professionals that work to advance the skill set of public relations. PRSA also fosters a national student organization called Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). "The declared purpose of PRSSA is to cultivate a favorable and mutually advantageous relationship between students and professional public relations practitioners" (http://www.prssa.org/about/). PRSSA's mission is: "1) To serve our members by enhancing their knowledge of public relations and providing access to professional development opportunities; 2) To serve the public relations profession by helping to develop highly qualified, well-prepared professionals."[7] These organizations should be strongly considered by anyone looking to have a career in public relations.

History

Edward L. Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, is widely recognized as the father of public relations. Bernays graduated from Cornell University in 1912 and opened the first recognized public-relations firm with Doris Fleischman in 1919.[8] As Harold Lasswell explained in 1928, "public relations" was a term used as a way of shielding the profession from the ill repute increasingly associated with the word "propaganda": "Propaganda has become an epithet of contempt and hate, and the propagandists have sought protective coloration in such names as 'public relations council,' 'specialist in public education,' 'public relations adviser.' "[9]

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. More recently in public relations, professionals are using technology as their main tool to get their messages to target audiences. With the creation of social networks, blogs, and even internet radio public relations professionals are able to send direct messages through these mediums that attract the target audiences. Methods used to find out what is appealing to target audiences include the use of surveys, conducting research or even focus groups. Tactics are the ways to attract target audiences by using the information gathered about that audience and directing a message to them using tools such as social media or other technology.

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, people who have a stake in a given issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if 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 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.[10]

Spin

In PR, "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 counterargument 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. Perhaps the best-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.[citation needed]

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.
  • 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

The tactic known as "defining one's opponent" is used in political campaigns. 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 in interviews or news releases, the news media will often repeat it verbatim, without questioning its aptness. This perpetuates both the message and whatever preconceptions might underlie it. Often, something that sounds innocuous 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 in the 1970s and 1980s.

Conveying the message

The method of a message's communication can be as important as the message itself. 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.[11]

The country of Israel has recently employed a series of Web 2.0 initiatives, including a blog,[12] MySpace page,[13] YouTube channel,[14] Facebook page[15] and a political blog to reach different audiences.[16] The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs started the country's video blog as well as its political blog.[16] 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.[17] The questions and answers were later posted on IsraelPolitik, the country's official political blog.[18]

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." [3].

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.[4][5][6]

See also

References

  1. ^ http://www.livingstonbuzz.com/2007/12/12/prs-ridiculous-identity-crisis/
  2. ^ Jensen Zhao. Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd. Ed. Retrieved from: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5209/is_1999/ai_n19125848/
  3. ^ Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
  4. ^ Seitel, Fraser P. The Practice of Public Relations. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007), 10e.
  5. ^ a b Answers.com Marketing Dictionary: Public Relations. Retrieved August 7, 2008
  6. ^ Rubel, Gina F., Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers, Doylestown, PA: 1 ed. 2007, ISBN 978-0-9801719-0-7
  7. ^ http://www.prssa.org/about/
  8. ^ [1]. Retrieved December 18, 2009
  9. ^ pp. 260-261, "The Function of the Propagandist", International Journal of Ethics, 38 (no. 3): pp. 258-268.
  10. ^ 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).
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ Israel Video Blog aims to show the world 'the beautiful face of real Israel', Ynet, February 24, 2008.
  13. ^ Israel seeks friends through MySpace page, Bobby Johnson, The Guardian, March 23, 2007.
  14. ^ Israel uses YouTube, Twitter to share its point of view, CNN, December 31, 2008
  15. ^ Israel's New York Consulate launches Facebook page, Ynet, December 14, 2007.
  16. ^ a b Latest PR venture of Israel's diplomatic mission in New York attracts large Arab audience, Ynet, June 21, 2007.
  17. ^ Battlefront Twitter, HAVIV RETTIG GUR, The Jerusalem Post, December 30, 2008.
  18. ^ The Toughest Q's Answered in the Briefest Tweets, Noam Cohen, The New York Times, January 3, 2009; accessed January 5, 2009.
  • Bernays, Edward (1945). Public Relations. Boston, MA: Bellman Publishing Company. 
  • Biagi, S. (2005). Media/Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media. Chicago: Thomas Wadsworth.
  • 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: A step-by-step guide to managing a business crisis. New York: McGraw-Hill/ Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-9659606-0-9. 
  • Cutlip, Scott (1994). The Unseen Power: Public Relations, A History. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-1464-7. 
  • Ewen, Stuart (1996). PR!: A Social History of Spin. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-06168-0. 
  • Forman, Amanda (2001). Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire. New York: Random House USA Inc; New Ed edition. ISBN 0-037-5753834-0. 
  • Grunig, James E.; and Todd Hunt (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0-03-058337-3. 
  • Hall, Phil (2007). The New PR. Mount Kisco, NY: Larstan Publishing. ISBN 0-9789182-0-7. 
  • International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)
  • Macnamara, Jim (2005). Jim Macnamara's Public Relations Handbook (5th ed. ed.). Melbourne: Archipelago Press. ISBN 0-9587537-4-1. 
  • Nelson, Joyce (1989). Sultans of Sleaze: Public Relations and the Media. Toronto: Between The Lines. ISBN 0-921284-22-5. 
  • Phillips, David (2001). Online Public Relations. London: Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3510-0. 
  • Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 10 ed. 2006 ISBN 0132304511
  • Stauber, John C.; and Sheldon Rampton (1995). Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. ISBN 1-56751-061-2. 
  • Tye, Larry (1998). The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays & the Birth of Public Relations. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-517-70435-8. 
  • Tymson, Candy; and Peter Lazar (2006). Public Relations Manual. Sydney: Tymson Communications. ISBN 0-9579130-1-X. 
  • Stoykov, Lubomir; and Valeria Pacheva (2005). Public Relations and Business Communication. Sofia: Ot Igla Do Konetz. ISBN 954-9799-09-3. 
  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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