Public relations

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations provides an organization orindividual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication. Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s as "a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization... followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance." In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined it 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."The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defined public relations in 1982 as: "Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other."In 2011 and 2012, the PRSA developed a crowd-sourced definition: "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Public relations can also be defined simply as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics. The European view of public relations notes that besides a relational form of interactivity there is also a reflective paradigm that is concerned with publics and the public sphere; not only with relational, which can in principle be private, but also with public consequences of organizational behavior A much broader view of interactive communication describes the form and nature of Internet-mediated public relations. Essential functions of public relations include research, planning, communication, dialogue and evaluation.Specific public relations disciplines include:

  • Financial public relations – providing information mainly to business reporters
  • Consumer/lifestyle public relations – gaining publicity for a particular product or service, rather than using advertising
  • Crisis public relations – responding to negative accusations or information
  • Industry relations – providing information to trade bodie
  • Government relations – engaging government departments to influence policymaking
  • Publicity events, pseudo-events, photo ops or publicity stunts
  • Speeches to constituent groups and professional organizations; receptions; seminars, and other events; personal appearances
  • Talk show circuit: a public relations spokesperson, or the 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
  • Collateral literature, both offline and online
  • Direct communication (carrying messages directly to audiences, rather than via the mass media) with, for example, printed or email newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Social media and social networks

The history of public relations is mostly confined to the early half of the twentieth century; however there is evidence of the practice scattered through history. One notable practitioner was Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire whose efforts on behalf of Charles James Fox in the 18th century included press relations, lobbying and, with her friends, celebrity campaigning. A number of American precursors to public relations are found in the form of publicists who specialized in promoting circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles. In the United States, where public relations has its origins, many early public relations practices were developed in support of railroads. In fact, many scholars believe that the first appearance of the term "public relations" appeared in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature.
 
Methods, tools, and tactics
Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization or individual’s important audiences has a central role in doing public relations. Traditional public relations tools include press releases and press kits which are distributed to the media to generate interest from the press. Other widely used tools include brochures, newsletters and annual reports. Video and audio news releases (VNRs and ANRs) are often produced and distributed to TV outlets in hopes they will be used as regular program content, with or without acknowledgment of the source. One emerging theme is the application of psychological theories of impression management. After a public relations 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 public relations. Astroturfing is the act of public relations agencies placing blog and online forum messages for their clients, in the guise of a normal "grassroots" user or comment (an illegal practice across the larger practice areas such as the European Union)
 
Trends
Advertising dollars in traditional media productions have declined and many traditional media outlets are seeing declining circulation in favor of online and social media news sources. One site even tracked the death of newspapers. As readership in traditional media shifts to online media, so have the focus of many in public relations. Social media releases, search engine optimization, content publishing, and the introduction of podcasts and video are other burgeoning trends. Social media has increased the speed of breaking news, creating greater time constraints on responses to current events. Increasingly, companies are utilizing social media channels, such as blogs and Microblogging. Some view two-way communications in social media in two categories: asymmetrical and symmetrical. In an asymmetrical public relations model an organization gets feedback from the public and uses it as a basis for attempting to persuade the public to change. A symmetrical public relations model means that the organization takes the interests of the public into careful consideration and public relations practitioners seek a balance between the interest of their organization and the interest of the public.
 
Targeting the public
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. A good elevator pitch can help tailor messaging to each target audience. Marketers often refer to socio-economically driven "demographics", such as "black males 18-49". On the other hand stakeholders theory identifies people who have a stake in a given institution or issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if a charity commissions a public relations agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease, thecharity 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 public relations 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 creates dissonance with another audience or group of stakeholders.
 
Lobby groups
Lobby groups are established to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion. 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 the newly seceded republics of Croatia and Bosnia, as well asSerbia invested heavily with UK and American public relations firms, so that they would give them a positive image in the USA.
 
Spin
Spin is defined as providing a certain interpretation of information meant to sway public opinion.The book The Age of Spin suggests that spin was a pejorative term in the 1950s, indicative of deceit, but has since shifted in its use to mean a polishing of the truth. A New York Times reporter said companies use spin to cause the company or other events to appear to be going in a slightly different direction than it actually is. Within the field of public relations, spin is seen as a derogatory term. Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors." The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial," phrasing that in a way presumes 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.
 
Negative PR
Negative public relations, also called dark public relations (DPR), is a process of destroying the target's reputation and/or corporate identity. In other words, instead of concentrating efforts in the maintenance and the creation of a positive reputation or image of your clients, the objective is to discredit someone else, usually a business rival. Unlike the regular services in public relations, those in DPR rely on the development of industries such as IT security, industrial espionage, social engineering and competitive intelligence. A common technique is finding all of the dirty secrets of their target and turning them against their very own holder. The building of a dark PR campaign, also known as a dirty tricks or a smear campaign is a long and a complex operation. Traditionally it starts with an extensive information gathering and follows the other needs of a precise competitive research. The gathered information is being used after that as a part of a greater strategical planning, aiming to destroy the relationship between the company, its shareholders and its customers.
 
Politics and civil society
In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy: The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind. In the USA, but not in the larger public relations markets, 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 U.S. 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, in the USA, 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
In the USA and India, news 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. Israel has employed a series of Web 2.0 initiatives which are indicative of how a small nation can use internet mediated communication. Israel's initiative in 2008 include 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, contend that some public relations firms involve a "multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry" that "concocts and spins the news, organizes phony grassroots front groups, spies on citizens, and conspires with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy." Instances with the use of front groups as a public relations technique have been documented in many industries. Coal mining corporations have created "environmental groups" that contend that increased carbon dioxide 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. Trial lawyers have created "consumer advocacy" front groups to oppose tort reform.
Media relations
Involves working with various media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization's mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner. Typically, this means coordinating directly with the people responsible for producing the news and features in the mass media. The goal of media relations is to maximize positive coverage in the mass media without paying for it directly through advertising. Many people use the terms public relations and media relations interchangeably; however, doing so is incorrect. Media relations refer to the relationship that a company or organization develops with journalists, while public relations extend that relationship beyond the media to the general public. Dealing with the media presents unique challenges in that the news media cannot be controlled — they have ultimate control over whether stories pitched to them are of interest to their audiences. Because of this, ongoing relationships between an organization and the news media is vital. One way to ensure a positive working relationship with media personnel is to become deeply familiar with their "beats" and areas of interests. Media relations and public relations practitioners should read as many magazines, journals, newspapers, and blogs as possible, as they relate to one's practice. Working with the media on the behalf of an organization allows for awareness of the entity to be raised as well as the ability to create an impact with a chosen audience. It allows access to both large and small target audiences and helps build public support and mobilizing public opinion for an organization. This is all done through a wide range of media and can be used to encourage two-way communication.