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Introduction to Public Relations

What is Public Relations (PR)


Public relations (PR) is the way organisations, companies and individuals
communicate with the public and media. A PR specialist communicates with the
target audience directly or indirectly through media with an aim to create and
maintain a positive image and create a strong relationship with the audience.
Examples include press releases, newsletters, public appearances, etc. as well as
utilisation of the world wide web.

PR and the World of Business


The world of business is characterised by fierce competition and in order to win
new customers and retain the existing ones, the firms have to distinguish themselves
from the competition. But they also need to create and maintain a positive public
image. A PR specialist or firm helps them both create and maintain a good
reputation among both the media and the customers by communicating in their
behalf and presenting their products, services and the overall operation in the best
light possible. A positive public image helps create a strong relationship with the
customers which in turn increases the sales.

PR Tools and Techniques


PR specialists and firms use a number of tools and techniques to boost their clients’
public image and help them form a meaningful relationship with the target
audience. To achieve that, they use tools such as news releases and statements for
media, newsletters, organisation and participation at public events conferences,
conventions, awards, etc.. PR specialists of course also utilise the Internet tools
such as social media networks and blogs. Through the mentioned tools, PR
specialists give the target audience a better insight into their clients’ activities and
products/services as well as increase publicity.

Who Can Work as a PR


A PR specialist is usually required to have a relevant type and level of education
such as a Bachelor’s degree in communications or journalism. Proper education,
however, is not enough to become a PR and much less to become a successful PR.
A PR specialist needs certain skills (they are acquired through additional education
and training), in the first place excellent writing and verbal communication skills.
But a PR specialist also must know to work under pressure and be able to answer a
variety of questions including unpleasant ones. For example, if the client is under a
public “attack”, a PR specialist needs to establish a control over the situation and
protect the client’s good reputation.

Public Relations Through Time


Early History
Public relations (PR) is not a recent invention. The importance of communication
with the public and maintenance of positive public image was known as early as in
the antiquity but the beginnings of modern PR are traditionally dated in the 18th
century London. One of the first PRs was Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of
Devonshire who heavily campaigned for Charles James Fox and his Whig party. PR
in the real meaning of the word, however, dates only to the early 20th century. The
first real PR specialist was according to some Ivy Lee (1877-1934), while the others
see Edward Bernays (1891-1995) as “the father of public relations”.

Ivy Lee or Edward Bernays?


Whether the founder of modern PR is Ivy Lee or Edward Bernays remains a matter
of debate. Both historians who consider the first PR specialist Ivy Lee and those
who see Bernays as the founder of modern PR have strong arguments to support
their views. We will not get into the debate who of the two men had a greater
influence on the future development of PR. Instead, we will take a closer look at the
work and contribution of Lee and Bernays to the modern PR.

Ivy Lee is best known for his services to Standard Oil and its founder John D.
Rockefeller. But those who are familiar with PR history know him better for
introducing the term “public relations” and for pioneering the modern press release
although he mainly used it as a one-way propaganda for his clients.

Edward Bernays refined Lee’s press release as a PR tool but he also contributed a
lot to the development of the theory of PR. He is said to be influenced greatly by his
uncle and professor Siegmund Freud in his concepts of PR. Bernays has written
several books on PR, of which are best known “Crystallizing Public Opinion”,
“Propaganda” and “The Engineering of Consent”. In his works, Bernays argued that
PR is an applied social science which manages and manipulates the public opinion
by the use of sociology, mass psychology and similar disciplines.

PR and Propaganda
Although Lee, Bernays and other PR pioneers such as Carl Byoir and John W. Hill
played an important role in modern PR, they were also responsible for the
profession’s close association with propaganda by the public. As a result, their
successors did not have an easy job in changing the profession’s “bad” reputation
and even today, PR is sometimes equated with propaganda.

PR After the Advent of the Internet


The Internet has changed communication dramatically. The public is increasingly
turning to the world wide web for information and as a result, PR must keep up with
the changes in transmission of information if it wants to retain its role as a
communicator between the public and organisations. Modern PR thus besides the
traditional tools also implements online tools and tactics, including social media
such as blogs, content publishing, search engine optimisation (SEO), podcasts, etc..

Who Needs PR Services


PR services are sought after by many organisations, companies and prominent
individuals. A PR specialist communicates with the public and media in their behalf
in order to present them in the best light. This helps their clients create and maintain
a good reputation. But it also helps them stand out from the crowd and attract
attention of both the public and media as well as create a two-way communication.

The Usual PR Clients


PR services are utilised by many organisations and individuals who want to create a
better image of themselves in public. The most frequent clients of PR firms include:

 businesses; they utilise PR services to present their products/services and the


way their firms work and of course, create a strong relationship with the
customers and reach more potential buyers
 non-profit organisations; examples include charity organisations, schools,
hospitals, etc. who use PR services as a part of fund-raising events and
promotion campaigns
 notable individuals; examples include celebrities who use PR services to
communicate in their behalf with the media and their fans but PR specialists
are also highly sought after by politicians who can succeed only if they have a
good public reputation

Benefits of Using PR Services


PR specialists are professionals who have the knowledge and skills to communicate
with the public and media. Many come from the lines of journalists and know
exactly what it takes to attract public attention which is the key to success in the
increasingly competitive business world. But they also know how to respond in
critical situations and protect their clients’ public image and reputation.

By helping create and maintain a good reputation in the public, PR specialists and
firms play an important role in the overall success of their clients. For example, an
effective presentation of the products/service significantly increases the sales by
presenting them in a consumer-attractive way. Politicians, on the other hand, can
count on support of their voters only if they have a good reputation.

How to Utilise PR Services


Most organisations and individuals who decide to use PR services hire a PR firm or
specialist only for specific tasks. Examples include presentations of a new
product/service, communication with the public and media during political
campaigns or fund-raising events, management of unpleasant situations and
controversies, etc.. But many also work with PR firms on a regular basis, while a
growing number of companies and organisations have their own PR department.

PR Tools and Techniques

Creation and maintenance of a good public reputation is a complex and ongoing


process. Without an effective PR, it is very difficult to reach the attention of the
target audience and much less to influence their opinion and decisions. But when
the relationship with the target group is finally established, it needs to be
maintained in order to keep it on a high level. The process works similar to the
interpersonal relationships. When two people lose contact, they pretty much
disappear from each other lives no matter how close they used to be. And the same
happens with the target audience if the established relationship is not maintained.

Common PR Tools and Techniques


In order to build a relationship with the target audience and maintain it on a high
level, PR specialists use a variety of tools and techniques. Some of the most
common ones include:

 Attendance at public events. In order to attract public attention and keep it


engaged with a particular organisation or an individual, PR specialists take an
advantage of every public event and the opportunity to speak publicly. This
enables them to directly reach the public attending the event and indirectly, a
much larger audience.
 Press releases. Information that is communicated as a part of the regular TV
or/and radio programme, newspapers, magazines and other types of
mainstream media achieves a much bigger impact than advertisements. This is
due to the fact that most people consider such information more trustworthy
and meaningful than paid adds. Press release is therefore one of the oldest and
most effective PR tools.
 Newsletters. Sending newsletters – relevant information about the
organisation or/and its products/services - directly to the target audience is
also a common method to create and maintain a strong relationship with the
public. Newsletters offering promotional products are also a common
marketing strategy but PR specialists use it to share news and general
information that may be of interest to the target audience rather than merely
promoting products/services.
 Blogging. To reach the online audience, PR specialists use the digital forms of
press releases and newsletters but they also use a variety of other tools such as
blogging and recently, microblogging. It allows them to create and maintain a
relationship with the target audience as well as establish a two-way
communication.
 Social media marketing. Like its name suggests, it is used primarily by the
marketing industry. Social media networks, however, are also utilised by a
growing number of PR specialists to establish a direct communication with
the public, consumers, investors and other target groups.

Working as a PR Specialist
Career as a PR specialist can be very rewarding. More and more organisations and
businesses are aware that their public image has a major influence on their overall
success. As a result, PR specialists are increasingly sought after regardless of the
economic situation.

What Does a PR Specialist Do


The main responsibility of a PR specialist is to communicate with the public and
media on behalf of his/her client who can be a company, non-profit organisation or
an individual. And the outcome of this communication has to be a positive public
image and creation of strong relationship with the media, customers, the employees,
investors and other interest groups as well as the general public.

A PR specialist is expected to appear on public events such as conferences, write


press releases and newsletters, and to do a variety of tasks that have an influence on
his/her client’s public image. In many cases, this requires a great deal of flexibility
in terms of both working place and schedule, especially in times of crisis situations.
For example, when a negative news about the client gets into public, PR specialist
is expected to respond promptly and efficiently in order to help the client retain
their good reputation.

A PR specialist may work for a PR firm, or in a PR department of a larger company


or non-profit organisation. But many PR specialists also run their own business as
consultants or freelance specialists.

Who Can Become a PR Specialist


In order to be considered for the job of a PR specialist, a Bachelor’s degree from
journalism or communications is typically required. But many people who have
created a career as PR specialists also completed formal education in other fields
including English, Advertising, Creative Writing, Psychology, etc.. Most of them,
however, also attended accredited PR courses and training.

Although formal education is highly important, PR firms and organisations that are
looking for PR specialists, however, also look for exceptional communication skills
which are not easily acquired. In order to represent their clients in the best manner,
a PR specialist must have strong verbal and writing communication skills as well as
to be able to work under pressure.
What are the Salaries of PR Specialists
Salaries of PR specialists vary greatly but in average, they earn about £40,000 a
year. Entry-level PR specialist earn slightly less, while those who have already
proven themselves in the field of public relations earn as much as double of the
average. The very top PR specialists whose services are highly sought after usually
earn six-figure salaries but they account only for a fraction of PR specialists.

PR Vs Advertising
PR and advertising often go hand in hand but they are two completely different
things with a completely different goal and overall effect. While advertising is
exclusively focused on promotion of products or services with an aim to encourage
target audience to buy, PR is specialised in communication with the public and
media.

Difference Between PR and Advertising


Just like advertising, PR often helps increase the sales as well and may include
elements of marketing. However, it is mainly focused in creating positive publicity
about a particular company, organisation or individual and maintain a good
reputation in the public. By doing so, PR helps create a relationship between let’s
say a commercial company and its customers who are more likely to choose the
products from a company they have a good opinion over those from a firm they
have never heard off before or heard something negative about it.

The Effect on the Public


The public reacts very differently to an add than to a newspapers article or a TV
report. They know very well when they are reading/looking an add and the
information they are communicated is perceived with a certain degree of
skepticism. They know that the add wants to persuade them to buy a particular
product or service and will either believe or disbelieve the information they are
communicated. But when they are communicated news about a new product or
service through a third party, for example a newspapers or online article they
perceive it as informative and worthy of their attention. A press release for instance
does not directly encourage them to buy but it often achieves just that by creating a
positive image about the product/service or its manufacturer, or both.
Cost
Neither a professionally led marketing or PR campaign is inexpensive. The cost
depends greatly on who you hire but generally, PR is a lot less expensive than
advertising. But it is also true that PR has a lot less control over the way their
clients are presented by the media in comparison to paid adds that oblige the media
to publish them unchanged. At the same time, a press release is published only once
by a single media, while the adds can be published over and over again.

But given that press releases and other PR tools to attract publicity usually achieve
a greater impact on the target audience, there is no need for repetition of the same
stories over and over again to attract attention of the public like this is usually the
case with adds. In addition, an article or TV cover of purely informative nature is
more likely to led the target audience believe the content of the adds. As a result,
PR campaigns often precede or/and accompany marketing campaigns or are an
integral part of advertising strategy.

How Can PR Boost Your Business


In today’s world, publicity is everything of course along quality service or product.
There is a fierce competition in just about every sector, while the consumers
typically decide for brands they are familiar with and which they trust. In order to
earn the consumers’ trust, companies rely heavily on marketing strategists but they
also rely heavily on PR specialists.

PR Much More than Just Promotion


Unlike marketing which is focused on promotion of the company’s products or
service, PR is primarily focused on communication with the public, e.g. the
potential buyers and the media. By communicating relevant information about the
company and of course its products/service, PR specialists also help in the
promotion of the business. But above all, they create a positive public image and
establish a relationship with the target audience and media. That way they gradually
earn the consumers’ trust which as mentioned earlier, has a major influence on their
decisions including the product/service they choose from the many available.

“Damage Control”
Besides attracting public attention and helping establish a good reputation which
directly influences the sales, PR specialists also play an important role in the times
of crisis. Imagine that an angry employee or the competition starts to spread
unpleasant rumours about your company. The public does not know the story
behind and if you do not react, they may think that the rumours are true. And even
if they find it hard to believe, they will remember that they have heard something
bad about your company.

Now imagine the consumers choosing between a brand from which they have heard
only the best and your company. Most of them will not take any chances and
choose more respected company instead. And you cannot really blame them
because you would probably do the same if you were in their shoes. Therefore it is
not a good idea to leave the public wondering about the truth whatever it is and this
is where a PR specialist steps in.

In the times of crisis like the situation described above, you need someone who
reacts quickly and efficiently to at least minimise the damage. And that someone
can only be a person who can think and act fast under pressure as well as
communicate well with the public and media – a PR specialist.

Utilising PR Services
Large firms typically have their own PR departments. This is without a doubt the
best way to utilise PR services because the PR specialists can focus on your needs
alone. Having own PR department and keep full time PR specialists, however, is
usually too expensive for small to medium sized companies. In order to benefit
from PR services without jeopardising their budget, small to medium sized
companies can hire a PR firm or freelance PR specialist for a limited time and job.

Public Relations and the Internet


The Internet has caused a revolution in communication by giving a voice to those
that previously could not have been heard. This has opened a whole new world of
opportunities for both businesses and individuals that were unimagined in the era of
the traditional media. These still play an important role in shaping the public
opinion but with the entire globe moving to the online world to search for
information and buy products/services, a PR that does not effectively communicate
with the online community can no longer effectively shape and maintain the desired
public image.
Challenges of the Internet for PR
Although the Internet is one of the greatest inventions in human history, it has
dramatically changed the world and above all, the communication. The world wide
web has opened a number of opportunities but it has also opened a number of
challenges, especially for the PR sector that has mastered communication with and
through the traditional media. While PR specialists virtually had no competition in
the era of the traditional media, the democracy of the Internet has forced them to
compete with the entire world.

The Internet has given just about everyone the ability to share their opinion just
about everything with the entire world in a matter of seconds. The ability to reach
thousands or millions of people in virtually no time gave PR specialists a powerful
tool but it also made their jobs more difficult, especially in case of an attack on
integrity of their clients. Just imagine restoring the client’s reputation if the first
page of search engine results contains mainly compromising or damaging content.

The Importance of Internet PR


Why businesses and individuals who want to succeed in the modern world cannot
afford not to utilise the Internet PR is clearly evident from the example of “anti-
campaigns”. These can either be an unfortunate incident or a carefully devised plan
of unethical competition. But regardless of who stands behind and why, negative
campaigning can have a devastating effect on public reputation of a company or an
individual. The risk of negative publicity, however, is not the only reason why the
Internet PR is increasingly gaining in importance.

The Internet has a major influence on people’s opinion and the decisions they make,
especially when they are uncertain. For example, let’s say Joe has difficulties
deciding which anti-acne cream to choose. He will open his search engine and look
for information about the creams he is considering buying. He will most likely take
into account a variety of factors including the price and other people’s opinions but
his decision will also be influenced greatly by the information he will be able to
receive about a particular product. And if he finds little information about how the
product is supposed to work, how soon he will be able to see the results, etc. there is
a great chance that he will not buy that product.
In order to encourage Joe to at least consider buying your cream, he needs to be
provided accurate, trustworthy and up-to-date information about both the product
and your company. And this can be achieved only through an effective Internet PR.

Choosing the Right PR Firm/Specialist


PR Department Vs Hiring Outside PR Services
If you own a business and would like to benefit from utilising PR services, you
have two options. You can either create a PR department and employ PR staff or
hire outside PR services. The first option is without a doubt a better idea because
the entire PR department is working for you alone. As a result, you can expect a
better service than from a firm which is working for multiple clients.

The Cost Result Ratio


Having own PR department significantly increases the costs of operation because
PR specialists are quite expensive. In fact, most small and medium sized companies
cannot afford to hire even a single full time PR specialist. This is due to the fact that
you do not only need a PR specialist but you need a good PR specialist if you want
to benefit from utilising PR services. If you cannot afford to employ a full time PR
specialist, the only option is to hire outside PR services which can boost your
business as well.

Tips on Choosing a PR Firm or Specialist


Whom you hire to carry out PR for you, of course matters a lot in the overall effect
of the PR campaign. When you will be choosing between the many PR firms and
freelance PR specialists, you are therefore recommended to pay attention to the
following factors:

 Reputation. Obviously, you need someone who knows their job inside and
out if you want to benefit from PR. So take some time for research on
particular firms and specialists to see who are their clients and what do they
say about the quality of their services.
 Experience and expertise. The more experienced the PR personnel the better.
But established PR specialists are typically also considerably more expensive
than those at the entry-level who are not necessarily any less effective than
their experienced colleagues. In order to prove themselves and create a good
reputation, they often work twice as hard as their famous counterparts and as a
result, they often bring excellent results. Hiring non-established PR specialist,
however, can be a gamble which is why you should ask yourself if you are
willing to take the chance, or better yet if you can afford to take the chance.
 Specialisation. Many PR firms are specialised in particular fields of PR.
While some focus on financial PR and communication with potential
investors, stockholders, etc., the others specialise in consumer PR which is
focused on presentation of new products/services to the target customer
audience. You are therefore recommended to determine your PR needs before
you start looking for PR services.
 Cost. PR services do not come cheap and most businesses cannot afford to
hire the best PR firms and specialists. Watching for the cost of the services is
of course highly important but it is a good idea not to try to get too much for
too little. PR firms and specialist in the most favourable price ranges are
forced to work for multiple clients at a time which in turn may compromise
the quality of their service.