Role of Public Relations Management in an Organization

Role of Public Relations Management in an Organization

It is in every organization’s interest to maintain a positive public image. Whether it is a public sector organization or a private sector organization, both types of organizations can only be benefit from proper management of their publics’ perceptions of the organization. Both types of organizations can reap benefits from a positive public image which not only helps to increase confidence in the organization on the behalf of the organization’s publics and key stakeholders but also reinforce trust in the organization’s capabilities towards success.

It is often misunderstood that the organizations practice public relations only for the purpose of publicity. But instead, the discipline of public relations (PR) deals with shaping and maintaining the image and reputation of the organization in the eyes of its various publics. It is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to institute and maintain mutual understanding between the organization and its publics. It uses information to influence opinion for creating and maintaining goodwill. It is the practice of managing communication between the organization and its publics.

Publics, in PR terms, are the ones who ever have or ever will form an opinion about the organization. Publics are the interested audiences that are important in some way to an organization including current and potential customers, current and potential employees and management, investors, vendors and suppliers, media, government, and opinion leaders etc. They can be internal within the organization or external to the organization. As an example typical composition of publics of a multinational organization is given in Fig 1.

Publics of a MNC

Fig 1 Typical composition of publics in a multinational organization

Definition of public relations

Public relations activities are planned and sustained to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. Generally there is not one single accepted definition of public relations. Instead, there are many ways to define it. Some of these are given below.

Ivy Lee and Edwards Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s which states it 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’. defines public relations purely in terms of publicity work, describing PR as ‘Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives’.

According to Kent State University, public relations activity is ‘the strategic management of communication and relationships between organizations and their key publics’.

The latest definition of public relations has been given by the Public Relations Society of America in 2012 which states as ‘Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics’.

In many cases, the chief duty of the public relations professional is to draft press releases, which are sent to targeted members of the media. But to limit the scope of the public relations definition to publicity alone would be to underestimate the growing influence and reach of PR.

Nature of PR activities

 A positive public image is the result of carefully planned media placement, interview publishing, press release composition, online reputation management, social media campaign management, and many other public relations factors. Public relations success requires a deep understanding of the interests and concerns of each of the organization’s many publics. The public relations professional must know how to effectively address those concerns using the most powerful tool of the PR which is the publicity.

The three general kinds of PR work are publicity, event management and publication design as described below. The products are intended to influence public opinion and are designed to promote and protect the image and the products of the organization.

  • Publicity – It is communication written and produced by public relations professionals intended to create a favorable public image for the organization. Publicity usually takes the form of text, audio and video news releases about the organization distributed to newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, Internet sites and other forms of media. While there may be production costs, the organization does not pay a fee for placement of the information in media. This is called free media. Publicity efforts might also include persuasive interpersonal communication, such as email and other forms of personal messaging, telephone calls, visits and meals.
  • Event management – It is the conception, creation, development, scheduling, arrangement, logistical coordination, talent sourcing, production, promotion and execution of events such as product launches, press conferences, corporate meetings, educational conferences, road shows, grand opening events, award ceremonies, launch parties, festivals, games and a variety of meetings. Such managed events are intended to accomplish the desire of the organization to generate goodwill.
  • Publication design – It involves conception, writing, layout and production of a wide variety of presentation media including promotional, sales and image building materials such as catalogs, brochures, manuals, flyers, newspapers, videos, DVD covers, podcasts, film credits, stage props, websites, logotypes, and branded packaging etc.

These public relations efforts by the organization are intended to promote goodwill with various publics, including the general public, the community, customers, consumers, employees, management, government officials, stockholders, suppliers, opinion leaders and others.

Roles of public relations management

Public relations can and should make an important contribution in helping to form an organization’s ideas about what it is, what it should do and what its publics want and expect from it.

  • Communication management – A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience and to tailor messages to be relevant to each audience. The public relations role calls for developing communications objectives that are consistent with the organization’s overall objectives. As two-way communicators, public relations professionals interact directly with key publics, relaying the resulting information (with recommendations) to other members of the management team.
  • Crisis management – Public relations establishes methods and policies to be used when the operations of the organization become involved in an emergency affecting the public. This includes policies and procedures for the distribution of information to employees, media, government and other key publics.
  • Issues management – This involves identifying problems, issues and trends relevant to the organization and then developing and executing a program to deal with them. This also includes the study of public policy matters of concern to the organization.
  • PR in marketing management – PR role in marketing management includes product publicity, product placement, third party endorsement, use of spokespersons, participation in trade exhibitions, and cause related marketing.
  • Relationship management – This involves the role of public relations in identifying key publics and establishing strategies for building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with those publics.
  • Reputation or image management – The planning and implementing of policies, procedures and strategies that demonstrate the commitment of the organization to public and social responsibility, ethical behaviour, corporate identity and reputation with key publics.
  • Resource management – Public relations management of human and financial resources revolves around setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and hiring PR employees and administering of these resources.
  • Risk management – As preventive PR, this role involves making the organization recognize areas of potential danger so that needed changes can be made before potential dangers develop into crises.
  • Strategic management – Acting as a counselor, the PR professional helps the management team in developing sound policies that are in the best interests of the public as well as the organization. The PR professional integrates an understanding of the concerns and attitudes of key publics into the organization’s managerial decision making process.

Public relations professionals present the face of an organization usually to articulate its objectives and official views on issues of relevance, primarily to the media. Public relations activity contributes to the way an organization is perceived by influencing the media and maintaining relationships with stakeholders.

The possibilities of success of public relations efforts  enhances if public relations professionals work with and answer to senior management and deal directly with the critical external and internal publics on which an organization depends. 

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