Functions of Public Relations

Although this is useful – it contains many key concepts – and saves us plugging through hundreds of definitions, it describes what PR does rather than what it is. Or, indeed, should be. described the attempts to define public relations as largely “constructed in an attempt to be all things to all people simultaneously”. The words “art” and “social science” are helpful in explaining the continuing tension between understanding PR as a measurable, science-based application of communication tools and the affection of many practitioners for the looser, more creative, aspects of the work. In the USA the social science elements dominate the understanding of PR, as is reflected in their education and texts about the subject. In the UK, there has been a tension between those who see public relations as a management function and those who view it primarily in relation to the media.

Originally most PR degrees were taught in business schools. However, unpublished research by the author for the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) (2003) suggests an increase in degrees based in schools of media and journalism.(Lerlo, pp.23) Media monitoring seems to be one of most widely used tracking methods for public relations departments, but again it lacks validity in terms of what you really need to accomplish in terms of your relationships – with one possible exception. If you are working toward enhancing your organization’s reputation with the media, you might be concerned that they begin to actually use your material. Keep in mind, however, that extrapolating to how many members of other publics saw and understood your message is dangerously lacking in substance.

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But there are also other reasons for doing media monitoring on a regular basis. In considering media relations, the objectives would be directed specifically toward the media. These objectives about what the public relations planning process aims to achieve are related to what the organization aims to achieve in community relations, employee relations, investor relations, relations with activist organizations, and so on. Keying objectives to specific publics enables a more directed selection of communication strategies later. (Barnett, pp.

15) Although you might select a particular strategy or vehicle that can achieve more than one objectives and is directed toward more than one public, you will eventually need to examine the outcomes for each public separately. Marketing PR was initially claimed by many manager to be effective in at least seven areas. These included successes in: new product introduction; promoting mature products and repositioning (i.e. USA peanut marketing); winning consumer trust (banks in USA); celebrating special occasions (i.e.

Barbie, Disney characters); sponsoring public services programs (New York and other city campaigns); sponsoring good causes (i.e. pressure groups in USA); sponsoring sports activities (waste management clean ups). (Cowlett, pp.

34) In all cases, then, the outcomes were massive publicity, increased sales, increased brand awareness, brand visibility, positive feedback, and public participation. All these are positive outcomes for marketing and PR. Put another way, as early as 1993, public relations was being used for ostensible marketing purposes and was shown to have something significant to contribute. Note that in many of the successes, the outcomes would have been far more difficult to achieve (perhaps impossible) if the businesses or organizations concerned had just decided to rely on the traditional tools of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, or personal selling. By 2001, any manager’s range of PR usage and benefits for marketing purposes had expanded markedly. …