Public Relations

Public Relations Tools

PR is the practice of managing the flow of information between organizations and the public.

Learning Objectives

Give examples of communications tools used to develop effective public relations programs

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A fundamental technique of public relations is identifying the target audience and tailoring messages to appeal to them.
  • Messaging is the process of creating a consistent story around a product, person, company, or service. The goal is to avoid having consumers receive contradictory or confusing information that will make them doubt their purchase or make other decisions that negatively impact the company.
  • Social media technology allows companies and organizations to disseminate information without relying solely on mainstream publications. Messages can be communicated directly to the public, customers, and prospects through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Other common PR activities include speaking at conferences, pursuing industry awards, working with the press, and communicating with employees.

Key Terms

  • Public relations: the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public

Public Relations Tools

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. The aim is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about the company and its leadership, products, or political decisions. Common PR activities include speaking at conferences, seeking industry awards, working with the press, communicating with employees, and sending out press releases.

Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to an audience through topics of public interest and news items.

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The Media in Action: The media is often utilized in PR campaigns.

Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization’s or individual’s audiences is critical in public relations. When a public relations practitioner is working in the field, they build a list of relationships that become assets, especially in media relations. The ultimate objective of PR is to retain goodwill as well as create it; the procedure to follow to achieve this is to first do good and then take credit for it. The PR program must describe its target audience—in most instances, PR programs are aimed at multiple audiences that have varying points of view and needs.

There are several PR tools firms can utilize to ensure the efficacy of PR programs: messaging, audience targeting, and media marketing.

Messaging

Messaging is the process of creating a consistent story around a product, person, company, or service. Messaging aims to avoid having readers receive contradictory or confusing information that will instill doubt in their purchasing choice or spur them to make other decisions that will have a negative impact on the company. A brand should aim to have the same problem statement, industry viewpoint, or brand perception shared across multiple sources and media.

Audience Targeting

A fundamental technique of public relations is identifying the target audience and tailoring messages to appeal to them. Sometimes the interests of different audiences and stakeholders vary, meaning several distinct but complementary messages must be created.

Stakeholder theory identifies people who have a stake in a given institution or issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if a charity commissions a public relations agency to create an advertising campaign that raises money toward finding the cure for a disease, the charity and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who might be willing to donate money.

Media Marketing

Digital marketing is the use of Internet tools and technologies, such as search engines, Web 2.0 social bookmarking, new media relations, blogs, and social media marketing. Interactive PR allows companies and organizations to disseminate information without relying solely on mainstream publications and to communicate directly with the public, customers, and prospects. Online social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter ensure that firms can get their messages heard directly and quickly. Other forms of media include newspapers, television programs, radio stations, and magazines. Public relations people can use these various platforms and channels to publish press releases. It is important to ensure that the information across all channels is accurate and as complementary as possible.

The amount of money spent on traditional media channels has declined as more and more readers have turned to favor online and social media news sources. As the readership of traditional media shift to online media, so has the focus of many in public relations. The advent and increase of social media releases, search engine optimization, and online content publishing and the introduction of podcasts and video are related trends.

Sponsorship is often used as part of a public relations campaign. A company will pay money to compensate a public figure, spokesperson, or “influencer” to use its logo or products. An example of sponsorship is a concert tour presented by a bank or drink company.

Product placement is basically passive advertising in which a company pays to have its products used prominently in a photograph, film, or video message or during a live appearance. The most common use of product placement is in films where characters use branded products.

Both product placement and sponsorship decisions are based on a shared target market. No matter the public relations vehicle, there must be a common buyer that all parties want to reach.

Handling Unfavorable Publicity

Handling unfavorable publicity means being honest with consumers and putting public interest first.

Learning Objectives

List the steps firms can take to implement an effective crisis communication plan

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Being prepared for harmful situations is imperative. It is important to map out potential negative scenarios and have a PR plan for each one. It is important to have a crisis management team who can handle these situations.
  • Protecting the integrity and reputation of an organization is important, but putting public interest ahead of the organization’s interest is key to gaining consumer trust and loyalty.
  • A media reaction plan should include a company media representative as part of the crisis management team. Firms need to show that they are working toward positive resolutions to deflect the negative publicity.

Key Terms

  • Crisis Management Team: A team in an organization that prepares contingency plans in advance, as part of a crisis management plan.

Crisis communication planning can help a firm deal effectively with unexpected disasters, emergencies, or other unusual events that may lead to unfavorable publicity. Effectively responding to any crisis means both controlling the public narrative and ameliorating any harm done, whether tangibly or to a company’s reputation.

The following principles represent best practices in crisis management: be prepared, do the right thing, communicate quickly and accurately, and follow up.

Be Prepared

Although emergencies are by their very nature unpredictable, it is possible to list and prepare for negative scenarios that might occur. It is also possible to set up a communication system that can be activated in almost any emergency situation.

Do the Right Thing

In any emergency situation, it is imperative that a company put the public interest ahead of the organization’s interest. The company’s first responsibility is to the safety and well-being of the people involved. Once safety has been restored, the company needs to face the public and face the facts. The company should never try to minimize a serious problem or “smooth it over” in the hope that no one will notice. Conversely, don’t blow minor incidents out of proportion or allow others to do so. Social media has accelerated the speed at which information about a crisis can spread; the viral affect of social networks such as Twitter means that stakeholders can break news faster than traditional media, which makes managing a crisis harder. However, a company should not speculate; if they don’t know the facts, they should say so and promise to get back to the media as soon as possible.

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Tylenol Medication: Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol medication was once laced with cyanide. In time, Johnson & Johnson learned to deal with the negative public relations.

Communicate Quickly and Accurately

Positive, assertive communication focuses attention on the most important aspects of the problem and moves the process forward to resolution, even in the face of antagonistic news media. Media representatives have an obligation to provide reliable information to their audiences, and they will get that information whether or not company spokespeople cooperate; if a company will not comment on the situation, someone else will. Serving as one of the major sources of media information in a crisis is a means of maintaining control. If necessary, activate the crisis management team. Act quickly and spare no expense in distributing the information you determine the media and others should have.

Follow Up

It is important to make amends to those affected and then do whatever is necessary to restore the organization’s reputation in the community. It is helpful to perform an act of goodwill during or immediately after a crisis when possible. Internal policies should be changed to minimize a repeat of the crisis situation. The crisis communication plan should be revised based on any new learnings.

Measuring Effectiveness of Public Relations Efforts

Measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of a public relations campaign is necessary to ensure that established objectives are met.

Learning Objectives

Explain how organizations can measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The most basic level of measuring effectiveness comes from compilations of message distribution and media placement. One elementary form of evaluation is simply to count how many news releases, feature stories, photos, letters, etc. are produced in a given period of time.
  • Measuring the effectiveness of public relations involves the measurement of changes in attitudes, opinions, and behavior, which can often be subjective and up to interpretation.
  • Social media measurement refers to tracking social content such as blogs, wikis, news sites, and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as a way to determine the volume and sentiment of online conversation about a brand or topic.

Key Terms

  • Evaluation: a systematic determination of a subject’s merit, worth and significance, using criteria governed by a set of standards. It can assist an organization to assess any aim, realizable concept or proposal, or any alternative, to help in decision-making; or to ascertain the degree of achievement or value in regard to the aim and objectives and results of any such action that has been completed.
  • social media: Interactive forms of media that allow users to interact with and publish to each other, generally by means of the Internet.

Evaluation of a public relations campaigns is the measurement of results against established objectives, which are set during the planning process. The desire to improve results the next time is a major reason for evaluating public relations efforts. Before any public relations program can be properly evaluated, it is important to clearly establish a set of measurable objectives. Public relations personnel and management should agree upfront on the criteria that will be used to evaluate success in attaining objectives, rather than waiting until the end of the program to determine how it will be evaluated.

When establishing objectives and measurement criteria, consider the following questions:

  1. Was the activity or program adequately planned?
  2. Did the recipients of the message understand it?
  3. How could the program strategy have been more effective?
  4. Were all primary and secondary audiences reached?
  5. Was the desired organizational objective achieved?
  6. What unforeseen circumstances affected the success of the program or activity?
  7. Did the program or activity fall within its budget?
  8. What steps can be taken to improve the success of similar activities in the future?

Sophisticated techniques, including computerized news clip analysis, survey sampling, quasi-experimental designs, and attempts to correlate efforts directly with sales, can be used for measurement. A minimum of three levels of measurement and evaluation include:

  • On the most basic level are compilations of message distribution and media placement. One elementary form of evaluation is simply to count how many news releases, feature stories, photos, letters, etc. are produced in a given period of time. This kind of evaluation provides management with the staff’s productivity and output.
  • The second level, which requires more sophisticated techniques, measures audience awareness, comprehension, and retention of the message. For example, editors of newsletters should evaluate readership annually to help ascertain reader perceptions, the credibility of the source, and the extent to which the newsletter meets organizational objectives.
  • The third level is the most advanced level. It is the measurement of changes in attitudes, opinions, and behavior.

Social media measurementrefers to tracking various social content such as blogs, wikis, news sites, micro-blogs such as Twitter, social networking sites, video/photo sharing websites, forums, message boards, blogs, and other user-generated content to determine the volume and sentiment of online conversation about a brand or topic, and to gain insight on consumer choices. This information indicates what marketing strategies appear to be working and which ones are not.

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QR Codes Gone Wrong: Placing large QR codes on billboards on busy streets or highways may not be an effective approach to public relations.