The Power of Communication
Mention public relations (or PR), in a conversation and you’ll get a range of responses – from the genuine, “Oh that’s interesting” to the rare eye roll of a sceptic. Everyone is familiar with the term but no one really knows what it means. Public relations is often misunderstood – seen as either too confusing or as a one-trick pony. Explaining its true value can be a daunting task.
The general public tends to associate public relations with the handling of rudimentary activities, such as issuing press releases and responding to the news media about a specific offering. Although they play a role, there are just two components of public relations.
Public relations is not just about generating publicity. It has to do with the art of communication. Used wisely and correctly, public relations provides a powerful tool for an organisation to effectively communicate its message, brand, and perspective to the public.
So, What is Public Relations?
Public relations can be defined as “cultivating favourable relations for companies with its key publics or target market base through the use of a variety of communication channels and tools.“
Traditionally public relations specialists would work with the various news media to build a favourable image by publicising the organisation or product through stories in print and broadcast media. But today the role of public relations has expanded. The importance of public relations is universal. Companies across a range of industries from all over the world use public relations to:
- Build awareness and communicate a favourable image for a company or client with stories and articles found in relevant media outlets;
- Closely monitor different media channels and news outlets for public comment or opinion about a company and its products;
- Manage crises that can threaten a company or product image; and
- Build goodwill among an organisation’s target market through community work, special programs and events.
Public relations professionals use many different techniques as part of their PR campaigns – from media relations and lobbying, to speaking at conferences, to online viral campaigns, to sponsorship and more. Public relations isn’t always about short-term campaigns, such as product launches or press releases. It can encompass longer-term strategic aims, such as brand building and working with local communities.
The Competitive Edge
Public relations can play a critical role in achieving a competitive advantage by, for example, opening new markets, attracting high-calibre employees, giving more access to funding and investors, creating a high value for products and services, and protecting businesses in times of crisis.
All organizations, whether local or international, big or small, can benefit from public relations – it is afterall, the simplest, yet most effective way to get the right message across to the right audience, at the right time.