MESSAGE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES IN PUBLIC RELATIONS-PART ONE
Bisi Olawuyi, PhD.
Introduction
Public relations is a field mo...
4), is the one provided by the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), United Kingdom’s leading
professional body for PR prac...
Table 1: A rough guide to the main activities in public relations
Public Relations Activities Explanation Examples
Interna...
achieve mutual understanding. Therefore, PR practitioners will improve on their
communication competence if they understan...
Message: “…is the content of the communicative act… everything a (sender-receiver)
does or say is a potential message as l...
Channel: is a “medium through which a message is sent” (Gamble and Gamble,
2002:10). In a sender-receiver interchange, mes...
Noise: is anything that interferes or is capable of undermining fidelity of message
reception in a communication activity....
suggests superiority. The way a setting is “constructed” in communication would
determine/define the nature and quality of...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Message development strategies in public relations part one

1,370 views

Published on

Message development strategies in public relations.

Published in: Business, News & Politics
0 Comments
1 Like
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Views
Total views
1,370
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
10
Comments
0
Likes
1
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Message development strategies in public relations part one

  1. 1. MESSAGE DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES IN PUBLIC RELATIONS-PART ONE Bisi Olawuyi, PhD. Introduction Public relations is a field more often characterised by what it does than what it is (2004). The import of this statement reflects the complexity involved in attempting to subject the practice to definitive perspectives. The point that is being made here is that while it may be easier to define some professions based on what they are, doing so for public relations only results in attempts at describing what the profession does. An examination of some definitions, perhaps, will suffice in establishing the veracity of this claim. Rex Harlow after a synthesis of 472 definitions of public relations arrived at a distilled version that projects the professions as: ...a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organisation and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasises the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilise change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools Another definition that is worth considering is the “Mexican Statement” which was conceived at the World Assembly of Public Relations Association at Mexico in 1978. The assembly agreed that the profession be defined as the “art and social science of analysing trends, predicting their consequences, counselling organisation leaders and implementing planned programmes of action which will serve both the organisation’s and the public interest.” And the last definition that will be reviewed in line with the proposition that most PR definitions describes what the profession “does rather than what it is” (Fawkes, 2004, pg.
  2. 2. 4), is the one provided by the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), United Kingdom’s leading professional body for PR practitioners. According to the body, “public relations is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and understanding between and organisation and its publics” (Fawkes, 2004, pg. 4). Although each of the three definitions identified has their distinct features, but there is an underlying principle that resonates through them all. In foregrounding what I consider the common denominator, even though expressed by the authors using different words and phrases (the emphases), they all convey the idea that the functions of public relations are deployed through strategic communication. Fawkes (2004), in his guide to the main activities in public relations, further reinforced the centrality of communication in what PR people do and how they do them. He identifies 13 strategic activities, though not exhaustive, that the profession carries out in fulfilling its obligations. Details of this checklist are presented in Table 1.
  3. 3. Table 1: A rough guide to the main activities in public relations Public Relations Activities Explanation Examples Internal communications Communicating with employees In-house newsletter, suggestion boxes Corporate PR Communicating on behalf of whole organisation, not goods or services Annual reports, conferences, ethical statements, visual identity, images Media relations Communicating with journalists, specialists, editors from local, national, international and trade media, including newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and web-based communication Press releases, photocalls, video news releases, off-the-record briefings, press events Business to business Communicating with other organisations, e.g. suppliers, retailers Exhibitions, trade events, newsletters Public affairs Communicating with opinion formers, e.g. local/national politicians, monitoring political environment Presentations, briefings, private meetings, public speeches Community relations/corporate social responsibility Communicating with local community, elected representatives, head teachers, etc. Exhibitions, presentations, letters, meetings, sports activities and other sponsorship Investor relations Communicating with financial organisations/individuals Newsletters, briefings, events Strategic communication ID and analysis of situation, problem and solutions to further organisational goals Researching, planning and executing a campaign to improve ethical reputation of organisation Issues management Monitoring political, social, economic and technological environment Considering effect of economy and politics on organisation Crisis management Communicating clear messages in fast- changing situation or emergency Dealing with media after major crisis Copywriting Writing for different audiences to high standards of literacy Press releases, newsletters, web pages, annual reports Publications management Overseeing print/media processes, often using new technology Leaflets, internal magazines, websites Events management, exhibitions Organisations of complex events, exhibitions Annual conference, press launch, trade shows Understanding the Communication Process for Effective Message Development in Public Relations Since the principal tool of public relations is communication, it is appropriate that practitioners understand the dynamics of this complex activity for maximum impact. Communication is a process. That is, “...the sharing of a common meaning between the sender and the receiver” (Sanchez, undated). It may appear that the explanation on communication process focuses more on mutual understanding between trans-receivers. But equally important are other elements that also work in tandem with the sender-receiver and receiver-sender to
  4. 4. achieve mutual understanding. Therefore, PR practitioners will improve on their communication competence if they understand the communication process, and avoid the different pitfalls associated with them. It has been established that individuals who understand the communication process will blossom into more effective communicators, and effective communicators have a greater opportunity for becoming success. Communication as a process comprises different but interrelated elements, which work in sync to ensure its effectiveness. Understanding each of these elements, and the role each plays in the dynamics of the communication process, affords the PR practitioner the opportunity of appreciating its internal workings, and how to fully appropriate its inherent benefits. Sender-Receiver: In some communication books, what you have is “sender”. If you will recall, we say communication is “reciprocal sharing…” Therefore, none of the interactants has the exclusive prerogative to dominate the communication space. In this wise, neither of the participants in the communication process can be so regarded as a “permanent sender” or “permanent receiver”; since it is a mutual exchange. Though it takes someone to initiate communication, in this case a sender, as a matter of fact, at another point in the continuum, he also acts as the receiver, when the receiver responds by providing feedback. However, it is important to reiterate that the extent to which the “receiver-sender” comprehends the message will depend on a number of factors, which include the following: how much the individual or individuals know about the topic, their receptivity to the message, and the relationship and trust that exists between sender-receiver and receiver-sender. All interpretations by the receiver-sender are influenced by his/her experiences, attitudes, knowledge, skills, perceptions, and culture. It is similar to the sender-receiver's relationship with encoding.
  5. 5. Message: “…is the content of the communicative act… everything a (sender-receiver) does or say is a potential message as long as someone is there to interpret the behaviour” (Gamble and Gamble, 2002:10). Moreover, Hybels and Weaver II (2001) said all message can be communicated only if they are represented by symbols. Accordingly, “all our communication messages are made up of two kinds of symbols: verbal and non-verbal” (page 8). Verbal symbols, which could be concrete or abstract, are made up of words in a language; and they stand for particular things or ideas. Verbal symbols are limited as well as complicated. For instance, the word chair is a concrete symbol which could have several impressions such as recliner, easy chair, beanbags, etc. (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001). Abstract words on the other hand, are more complicated; and they stand for intangible things such as ideas. For example, the understanding of the word “home” can be variously perceived based on individual experience and background (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001). Nonverbal symbols constitute the “ways we communicate without using words” (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001). It is important to note of all that goes on between people during any form of communication, 65% meaning is as a result of nonverbal symbols (Birdswithe, not dated). Therefore, to ignore the nonverbal cues is to overlook what is most significant in facilitating or achieving effective communication. Joseph Plazo has this to say about nonverbal cues: “It is the final barometer of the truth. It bares and reveals innermost thoughts.” But understanding [nonverbal communication] does more than help identify the current mental state of others. Expert knowledge of …this form of communication empowers you to project any image desired. [It] helps set the appropriate environment for persuasion. Examples of nonverbal symbols that are commonly used in day-to-day interactions include: movement, gestures, facial expression, paralinguistic features, proxemics, chronemics, kinesics, physical appearance: endomorph, ectomorph, mesomorph; haptics, artefacts, etc.
  6. 6. Channel: is a “medium through which a message is sent” (Gamble and Gamble, 2002:10). In a sender-receiver interchange, messages are sent and received through all the senses. Also, messages may be sent and received through verbal and nonverbal modes. For instance, “in face-to-face communication, the primary channels are sight and sound”, while in mass communication, the channels are radio, television, books, newspapers, magazines, etc. Moreover, other channels communicate nonverbal symbols: “a firm handshake (touch), appropriate clothing (sight), respectful voice (sound), etc. Feedback: the feedback element in the communication process ensures reciprocity in sharing. According to Hybels and Weaver II (2001:9) “feedback is the response of the receiver-senders to each other”, while Gamble and Gamble (2002:12) describe it as “the verbal and nonverbal cues that we perceive in reaction to our communication function… it tells us how we are coming”. According to Hybels and Weaver II (2001) feedback is vital to communication because it lets the participants in the communication encounter see whether ideas and feelings have been shared in the way they are intended. Feedback may be direct and immediate or indirect and delayed; it may be verbal or non-verbal (Locker and Kaczmarek, 2001). Gamble and Gamble (2002) note that feedback can either be positive or negative. When a positive, it enhances whatever behaviour is in progress. On the contrary, negative feedback serves corrective purposes. According to them, both types of feedbacks can emanate from internal as well as external sources. When individuals monitor their behaviours during a communication transaction and the feedback they receive from such assessment is internal feedback. External feedback on the other hand, is the response one gets from others who are involved in the communication activity. For one to be an effective communicator, one has to be sensitive to personal reactions as well as the reaction of others.
  7. 7. Noise: is anything that interferes or is capable of undermining fidelity of message reception in a communication activity. Put more succinctly, “noise is interference that keeps a message from being understood or accurately interpreted” (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001:10). It is important to note that “noise can interfere with every aspect of the communication process” (Locker and Kaczmarek, 2001:27). Consequently, it is apposite that a communicator who desires to be effective must familiarise him/herself with the dynamics of noise as it affects communication. Noise can occur in three (3) forms namely: external, internal, and semantic. External noise comes from the environment and keeps the message from being heard or understood, while internal noise occurs in the mind of the communicators when their feelings or thoughts are focused on something other than the message, or having one’s mind made up on an issue. Semantic noise can be regarded as inappropriate use of words such as grammatical error, use of profane language, sexist or ethnic remarks, etc. since noise is ubiquitous in communication, the onus lies on the perceptive communicator to seek to reduce to the barest minimum its effects on the success of the interaction. Setting/Context: communication is contextual. In other words, the setting in communication is defined as the “environment in which the communication occurs” (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001:11). Gamble and Gamble (2002) pointed out that environment of communication is so natural that one hardly notices it, while on other occasions it becomes so obvious it makes undeniable impression such that it exerts considerable control over ones behaviour. Also, certain environments may cause an individual to alter, or modify his posture, manner of speaking, dressing or means of interaction (Gamble and Gamble, 2002). In addition, setting often times shows power relation in communication (Hybels and Weaver II, 2001). For instance, when someone asks the question “your place or mine?”, it implies the acceptance or assumption of equality; when your boss asks you to meet him in his office, that
  8. 8. suggests superiority. The way a setting is “constructed” in communication would determine/define the nature and quality of interaction within the communicative space. Effect: communication is all about influence. This means that every act of communication has an attendant effect on interactants. This may be “emotional, physical, cognitive, or any combination of the three” (Gamble and Gamble, 2002). The principle that underlies the interacting elements of the communication process hinged on the premise that what connects the sender-receiver and receiver-sender is more than the message. Thus, while the message is of absolute importance, the PR professional needs to pay equally important attention to the influence of other elements to the overall output of the communication activity. Having established this basis-in-fact, the succeeding parts of this discourse shall address the utilitarian value of message in the execution of public relations functions. Summary In this discourse, we have examined and explored the professional practice of public relations through three definitions: Rex Harlow, the Mexican Statement and that of the Institute of Public Relations, United Kingdom. The rationale is to establish through these definitions that the principal tool through which PR professionals deploy their skills and expertise is strategic communication. Therefore, in order to execute this communicative function efficiently and effectively, it is pertinent that they understand the dynamics of the communication process. Because PR practitioners will improve on their communication competence if they understand the communication process, and avoid the different pitfalls associated with them. It is worth reiterating that individuals who understand the communication process will blossom into more effective communicators, and effective communicators have a greater opportunity for becoming success.

×