What is Public Relations (PR)?
Initially, public relations was not a popular profession, but at present, it is a highly demanding field. It implies the voluntary effort that a firm (commercial or non-commercial) makes through information, contacts, persuasion, etc., to get favourable public opinion for its activity, move, product or service, cause, and so forth.
It involves professionally maintaining a positive public image, be it by the company or by another organization or by a popular personality, like a celebrity, sportsperson, minister, etc.
In other words, PR plans and executes strategies and activities to influence or change public opinion and reaction about the firm, an individual, an idea, a product, a program, or a scheme. It strives for:
- Attracting attention
- Winning belief
- Imparting understanding
At present, public relations is all about – Persuasion, Information, Communication, Public Opinion, Public Policy, and Communication.
Table of Contents
Do you know?
For some people, Ivy Lee is the ‘father of public relations, who sees PR as an art. Whereas others believe Edward Bernays – the father of Public Relations, said that PR is a scientific practice.
This is because of their significant contribution to the field of PR. Interestingly, they have opposite views in this regard.
So, PR is an art as well as a science in managing relations with the general public. Now you must be thinking about: How PR is both – science and art?
Well, PR is an art as it needs artistic skills, fine arts, language, writing, and public speaking. At the same time, it uses social scientific methods and techniques for understanding and predicting the behaviour of the public and society.
Basically, PR is a unique function of management that facilitates defining and maintaining a mutual path of communication, understanding, cooperation, and acceptance amidst the firm and the public at large. It involves:
- Management of problems and issues
- Keeps management aware of and responsive to public opinion
- Defines and stresses the responsibility of management to serve the public interest.
- Facilitates management to be alongside and adopt the change in an effective manner.
- Deliberate, planned, sustained effort and function of management.
- It deals with an evaluation of the attitudes and opinions of the public on various policies, procedures, and movements of the organization.
- It works to ensure that all the efforts of the organization are in the public interest and are socially responsible.
- Programs are not just for communication but for action too.
- Seeks to establish and sustain a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Development of goodwill and rapport of the firm.
- It encompasses the ethical conduct of the firm, which is targeted to achieve a good and positive public image.
- The aim of public relations is to develop and maintain harmonious relations between the firm and the general public.
- It should not be confused with propaganda because the latter is meant to attract followers and keep them in line. Also, it does not need any ethical content. Oppositely, public relations acknowledge ethical conduct and work to achieve mutual understanding.
Here, one thing to note is that the concept of public relations varies from one person to another and one firm to another.
Role of Public Relations
While Government makes use of public relations as a device that keeps the public informed about the activities of government agencies. Further, it also explains policies and government schemes and also ensures the management of political campaigns.
On the other hand, firms use PR to manage their relationship with different groups, which are influenced by the company’s product and policies. These groups can be consumers, shareholders, employees, and government bodies.
As we know, communication is the key to maintaining a satisfactory, sustaining, and reliable relationship with stakeholders, including the public. Here, information flow plays a crucial role.
Public Relations creates and shapes the image of the organization. For this purpose, management is consulted that designs a rough blueprint of how the organization wants to be perceived and how it will propose a positive image. In this regard, planning and implementing the policies, procedures, and strategies that manifest the commitment and dedication of the firm towards public and social responsibility.
PR tends to acknowledge and work on the issues and problems that can greatly influence the organization. For this purpose, the PR team formulates a strategy to deal with those issues.
PR often proves effective in protecting the company’s image when there are negative or unfavourable rumours flood the market about the company or its products. It does not just set up policies and procedures to overcome any bad situation but also responds to criticism.
Identification of the key public and setting up strategies for building strong harmonious, and mutually beneficial relationships with them. With this, the company can earn the trust and support of the public to achieve business objectives.
Media has a very powerful impact on any company’s reputation. Here we are not just talking about broadcast media, but social media too plays a significant role. A single negative review from a customer can shake up the entire image of the company.
PR establishes a positive relationship with the media as well to get desired attention and publicity, which helps in influencing the public and changing their behaviour in the intended direction. It facilitates obtaining third-party endorsement as well.
It helps in anticipating the potential threats and risk factors to warn and make the management ready to overcome the situation. It also provides suggestions to mitigate or avoid the risk to a great extent.
Though we are discussing this role at the end, this is the most important one. Public Relations assist the management in formulating sound policies that can serve the public in a better way. In doing so, PR takes into account the major concerns and attitudes of the audience to help the organization in the decision-making.
- Anticipating, analyzing, and explaining the public attitude, opinions, and issues which can have an impact, be it good or bad, on the plans and operations of the organization.
- Continuously researching, performing, and assessing the programs of action and communication so as to obtain informed public understanding.
- This is pertinent for the success of the organization’s objectives.
- Making plans and implementing the efforts of the firm to influence or change public policy. For this purpose, objectives are set, plans and budgets are created, the staff is hired and trained, and facilities are kept ready. In other words, we could say the firm manages resources to perform all of these activities.
- Indulging in CSR activities to show the good side of the company, as they pay back to society for the resources they use.
- Assisting, advising, and guiding the management at various levels concerning policy decisions, actions, and communication, considering their outcomes and the firm’s social responsibilities.
- Winning the trust and confidence of the stakeholders.
- Earning awards, certifications, and endorsements from different people, organizations, and associations.
The main objective of PR is to develop an understanding and build a reputation. While advertising focuses on creating awareness among people about the company’s offerings to generate sales. PR, on the other hand, makes an effort to create mutually beneficial relationships between the firm and its stakeholders.
Even government and international organizations use PR as a tool to educate people about new public services, policies, and programs and welcome new lifestyles.