Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information
between an organization and its publics.1 PR aims to gain an
organization or individual positive exposure to their key stakeholders,
while downplaying any negative exposures. Common activities
include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working
with the press and employee communications.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) claimed in 1988:
"Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually
to each other."[Citation needed] According to the PRSA, the essential
functions of public relations include research, planning,
communications dialogue and evaluation.
Edward Louis Bernays, who is considered the founding father of
modern public relations along with Ivy Lee, in the early 1900s defined
public relations 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" (see history of public
Today, "Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and
technical functions that foster an organization's ability to strategically
listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually
beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to
achieve its missions and values." (Robert L. Heath, Encyclopedia of
Public Relations). Essentially it is a management function that
focuses on two-way communication and fostering of mutually
beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics.
There is a school of public relations that holds that it is about
relationship management. Phillips explored this concept in his paper.
Towards relationship management: Public relations at the core of
organisational development in 2006 which lists a range of academics
and practitioners who support this view.
The Industry Today
The public relations industry is most prominently separated into two
camps - in-house and agency. As industry consolidation becomes
more prevalent5 organizations are more often faced with a choice
between boutique firms or large global agencies. Smaller firms
typically specialize in only a couple topic areas so they have a greater
understanding of their client's business and stronger relationships
with journalists in a specific market. They are also often cheaper and
grant more attention to smaller clients. Larger firms have access to
more resources and experts in certain areas of public relations.
Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the
public arena employs some level of public relations. Most often one
or more PR managers that work for the company works with a team
of agency employees that work on several different accounts. Large
organizations have larger dedicated teams for PR.
Public relations are an important management function in any
organization. An effective public relations plan for an organization is
developed to communicate a message that coincides with
organizational goals and seeks to benefit mutual interests whenever
A number of specialties exist within the field of private relations, such
as Investor Relations or Labor Relations.
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
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 "white males 18-49," but in
public relations and 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
In addition to audiences, there are usually stakeholders, literally
people who have a "stake" in a given issue. All audiences are
stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders
are audiences. For example, 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
Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders
common to a PR effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but
still 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
Lobby groups are established to influence government policy,
Corporate policy or public opinion. These groups claim to represent a
particular interest. When a lobby group hides its true purpose and
support base it is known as a front group.
In public relations, spin is sometimes pejorative term signifying a
heavily biased portrayal in one's own favor 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 counter argument or position. In the modern
world, most PR practitioners are discouraged to use spin because it
is fundamentally counterproductive to the industry's ultimate goal of
building relationships with constituents.
The techniques of "spin" include Selectively presenting facts and
quotes that support one's position (cherry picking), the so-called
"non-denial 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 ormi squoted
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.
Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors",
though probably not to their faces unless it is said facetiously. It is the
PR equivalent of calling a writer a "hack". Perhaps the most wellknown person in the UK often described as a "spin doctor" is Ala stair
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.
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'
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 schedule 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.
• Publicity events,p seudo-events, photo ops or publicity stunts
• The 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
• 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
• Collateral literature, traditionally in print and now predominantly as
• 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 "flak"
(sometimes spelled "flack").
Politics and civil society
Defining the opponent
A tactic used in political campaigns is known as "defining one's
opponent". Opponents can be candidates, organizations and other
groups of people.
In the 2004 US presidential campaign, George W. Bush definedJohn
Kerry as a "flip-flopper," among other characterizations, which were
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 as
hopelessly liberal ("a card-carrying member of theAC LU"). 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".
If a politician or organization can use an apt phrase in relation to an
issue, such as in interviews or news releases, the news media will
often repeat it verbatim, without questioning the aptness of the
phrase. This perpetuates both the message and whatever
preconceptions might underlie it. Often, something innocuous
sounding 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, the 70s, and 80s.
Many of the techniques used by PR firms are drawn from the
institutions and practices of democracy itself.
Persuasion, advocacy, and education are instruments through which
individuals and organizations are entitled to express themselves in a
free society, and many public relations practitioners are engaged in
practices that are widely considered as beneficial, such as publicizing
scientific research, promoting charities, raising awareness of public
health concerns and other issues in civil society.
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. The creation of front groups is an example
of what PR practitioners sometimes term the third party technique—
the art of "putting your words in someone else's mouth." PR Watch, a
non-profit organization that monitors PR activities it considers to be
deceptive, has published numerous examples of this technique in
practice. 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 and spin[s] the news,
organize phoney 'grassroots' front groups, sp[ies] on citizens, and
conspire with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy.
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.
Public Relation is a management function that involves monitoring
and evaluating public attitudes and maintaining mutual relations and
understanding between an organization and its public. Public could
include shareholders, government, consumers, employees and the
media. It is the act of getting along with people we constantly come in
touch with. PROs ensure internal cohesion in the company by
maintaining a clear communications network between the
management and employees. Its first objective is to improve channels
of communication and to establish new ways of setting up a two-way
flow of information and understanding.
Public relations as a separate career option has came into existence
when lots of private or government companies and institution felt the
need to market their product, service and facilities. Public image is
important to all organizations and prominent personalities. The role of
public relation specialist becomes pertinent in crisis situations when
the correct and timely transmission of information can help save the
face of the organization.
Public relations describes the relationship an organization has with its
various publics: clients, employees, community, stakeholders,
suppliers, distributors and the media that transmit messages to some
or all of these groups.
Communication with these diverse audiences requires not only
specialist skills but also in-depth knowledge of their needs and
The question then isn’t, “do you need public relations?” because like
family relations, you’ve already got them.
Thereal question is; how to best manage these relationships? That's
where Heusler's team of marketing consultants can help.
The functions of Public Relations (PR) can be grouped into two loose
categories: organizational and societal. Many viewpoints of the
functions fall into both categories and are not mutually limited. The
scope of organizational functions of PR involves actions concerning
the company, and societal functions of PR interests' activities
regarding society. Organizational functions of PR are activities that
interact with or affect organizations while societal functions of PR
have to do with actions that connect to the public. Communications
management, media, government affairs, publicity, investor relations,
community relations, consumer relations, and employee relations are
organizational functions while marketing communications, consumer
relations, public affairs and issues management plus social
responsibility are societal functions. An industry must develop a
positive he public relations function
Public relations programmers encompass both marketing and
Marketing public relations is used in conventional marketing
situations to influence customers. As such, it forms part of the
marketing communications mix which also encompasses advertising,
direct response, sales promotion and personal selling.
The principal decision to be made when formulating a marketing
communication plan lies between a push strategy and a pull strategy,
or more likely the combination of the two.
• Push strategy: involves directing effort at intermediaries so that they
are motivated to direct their promotional effort at customers, thereby
pushing the product down the distribution channel.
• Pull strategy: involves aiming promotional activities at end users so
that they demand the product from intermediaries, thereby pulling the
product down the distribution channel.
Corporate public relations is used to influence customer and noncustomers publics and is particularly relevant in a marketing context
when these publics have to be influenced in order to gain market
entry. An example of this is a pass strategy which has become
increasingly important as public and media attention focus not only on
an organisation’s products and services, but also its response to
critical issues facing society at large:
• Pass strategy: applies when there is a need to enter markets
blocked or protected by parties other than end users; examples
include government, pressure groups, and other opinion formers, as
well as employees
In reality most marketing communications campaigns use a mixture
of both push and pull, although emphasis might be placed on one
strategy or the other. Frequently corporate public relations will be
employed in parallel to implement a pass strategy to address markets
where access is constrained either by non- customers target
audiences or non-product related issues. Examples might include a
lobbying campaign to amend the regulatory climate or an educational
programme to overcome concerns over the introduction of new
HOW DOES PUBLIC RELATIONS DIFFER FROM
Public Relations is a unique management function that adds
value to an organization by helping it to manage its reputation. It is
the art of building beneficial relationships between an organization
and the public – community, employees, investors, media,
government, customers, etc.
Marketing is the management function responsible for
identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer demands profitably. It
is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing,
promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create
exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.
PR builds relationships and creates goodwill for an organization,
whereas Marketing is concerned with customers and selling products
Public Relations immediate goal is mutual understanding of the
organization with its public, on the other hand, marketing’s immediate
goal is sales.
PR communicates with the public of an organization, whereas
marketing communicates with the markets of an organization.
Public Relation’s implicit goal is positive perceptions whereas
marketing’s implicit goal is profit.
Public Relation’s measure of success is expressed public opinion or
other evidence of public support. Marketing’s measure of success is
the number of sales or the revenue it generates.
Public Relations promote the entire organization whereas marketing
traditionally promotes products and services.
Marketing is about changing behaviour, while public relations
are about keeping or changing reputations. Both these aims work well
together. Changing behaviour is a lot easier if you have a reputation
thats consistent with that particular behaviour – it can be said that
reputation is a pre-requisite for marketing.
Similarly, what is done to change the organizations behaviour does a
lot to influence the reputation, even though that may not be the aim of
the marketing activity itself.
Thus, in simple words, it can be said that marketing is
concerned with the direct sale of products or services and the
development of markets, while Public Relations is concerned with the
public perception (image) of those products or services, or of the
outfit creating them.