Public relations involves diverse functions and is used in a variety of areas. Public relations practitioners operate in a multitude of areas, but these various areas are integrated and interrelated and are directed towards the achievement of the objective of creating mutual understanding between the organisation and their numerous publics.
At the end of this unit, you should be able to:
- List and explain the various areas that public relation functions are performed.
- Identify the activities an average public relations practitioners engages on.
3.0 MAIN CONTENT
3.1 Uses of Public Relations
Public Relations is used in various organizations, both commercial and non-commercial (or non-profit). Its use is diverse. Some of the uses of public relations include:
- Employee Relations/Employee Communication
- Community relations/affairs
- Media Relations
- Financial Public Relations
- Corporate Relations
- Political Public Relations/Government Liaison
- Special Events
- Corporate Advertising
- Crisis Management
- Fund Raising/Launches
Good employee relations do not occur by accident. They are achieved by conscious design and effort and are the result of a desire to create them and the willingness to work at them.
To the management, good employee relations are tangibly reflected in a good spirit de corps, high standards of work performance and quality workmanship that in turn materially affect unit costs and profitability. To the worker they mean good wages and employee benefits, fair and considerate treatment, job satisfaction and job security, together with the feeling of belonging, of being a vital part of the productive team. Basically, this involves motivation and effective human relations. The provision of an environment in which the worker can retain an appreciable level of self-respect and individual dignity.
The importance of employee communication lies in the fact that employees play vital role in creating the image of a company through heir contact with customers, their circle of family and friends, and their participation in community affairs and political life. Properly informed and motivated, they can be one of the most powerful support groups in seeking to achieve the public relations objectives of their employer ill-informed, they can become cynical about the public image of the organization. Moreover, since others regard them as one of the most credible source of information about their employers, they can seriously undermine efforts to communicate the employer’s objectives and achievements to other publics. Effective employee communication is involved in all the four phase of employment.
- The start, in which recruitment, advertising, interviews, orientation pamphlets, and meetings are used to attract, select, and indoctrinate new employees.
- The work, during which many face-to-face and mediated communications provides instruction, news and job-related information.
- The rewards and recognition, involving announcements, publicity, and special events concerning compensation, promotions, benefit programmes, special events, and award winners.
- The termination or work interruption, whether caused by lay off, strike, sit-in, breakdown of equipment, disaster, elimination of positions, or dismissals of individuals. Communication in all four phase establishes relationships between the organization and its employee publics, builds and transmits the organizational culture, and contributes to achieving the goals of employee communication.
Consumer and Dealer Relations
Cutlip, Center and Broom (1985) have identified seven main forms of assistance that PR renders to marketing in consumer product and service companies as;
- Publicizing news and events related to the launching of new or improved products or services.
- Promoting establishing products or services to the extent they are news worthy.
- Creating a favorable image of the “company behind the product”
- Arranging for public appearances of marketing spokespersons
- Probing public opinion in market areas
- Focusing news-media attention on sales conferences and other marketing events.
- Assisting in programmes concerning consumerism. (Protection of consumers interests).
Cutlip, Center and Broom contend that the goal of consumer relations is to help promote the sale of products and services with novel and news making projects, bit with more attention to truth and accuracy of claims. The emphasis will still shift more to communications projects and vehicles for product-problem alerts and recalls, consumer education in the care and use of products and forms of easy redress for settlement of grievances by private arbitration.
The advent of consumerism which Ralph Bader has championed for long) poses some challenges for corporate PR and social responsibility. The PR man should develop systems for retrieval of accurate intelligence reports from the market, most especially consumer complaints and grievance, but also from the other publics such as the dealers, the press or other marketing facilitators.
Also PR should keep other functional units constantly reminded of the importance of quality and performance.
PR should design programmes to counteract consumer ignorance and meet their need for information; as well as to handle or forestall complaints.
The first step in community relations is to know the community intimately. This requires knowledge of the community’s strength and weakness an analysis of its needs and welfare.
An organization needs to ‘marry’ the community it settles with. The need for community relations is symbolic of wife/husband relations. The power structure of the community i.e. Opinion leaders, prime movers and other activists must be clearly identified. The basic prime mover is employee’s families, the press, opinion leaders, and social philanthropic organizations, crusaders, protest groups, pressure groups etc.
It is important in community affairs. The PR practitioner must identify ways of listening to and responding to the sensitivity of the local community and extending the facilities of the organization to the community and provisions of social amenities. The community may be in need such as water, schools, health facilities, job opportunity scholarships and vocational training, sponsorship and vocational training, sponsorship of cultural events and social activities like sports.
Organizations depend on the media to reach their desires audiences. Roger Haywood (1984) has observed that if an organization treats media simply as “messengers”. It is unlikely to develop the most effective programme of media communication.
management, positive media relations are a must for the professional PR executives. According to Cutlip, Center and Broom, profitable press relations require adherence to the fire “Fs”: dealing with journalists and programme producers in manner that is fast, factual, frank, fair, and friendly. The bedrock of the public relations practitioners-journalist relationship must be one of mutual trust and mutual advantage. Organization wants news reported in a favorably manner that will promote their objectives and will not cause them trouble. The news media on the other hand want news that will interest readers and viewers. Balancing these two conflicting interests requires dexterity on the part of the public relations practitioner. The media serve as “gate-keepers”, controlling information that flows to other publics. That is why PR people must make the efforts to maintain cordiality with media men.
Crisis arises from both natural and man-made causes. Planning for a crisis is essential at the three stages of crisis management. Crisis management is about seizing the initiative taking control of what has happened before it engulfs the organization. In other words, good crisis management means being prepared.
The first task is to understand the extent of the problem. It is only with this understanding that the organization can ensure that it send out the right messages or even answer media inquires. Some cause of crisis can be industrial relations, products failure, sabotage, market, changes, managerial incompetence. Regulations and deregulation changes, impact of world events, financial difficulty, environmental conflict, misdemeanor, civil disorder, etc.
Every organization generates events that can be creatively managed through PR efforts to catch public attention and get publicity. These events could be of potential interest to priority public e.g., the employees; it could also be of broader potential interest e.g., to the community. The range of events is vast depending on the situation and the ability of the PR man to create and manage news. A good special event start with planning then goes through staging and timing. Ample publicity is essential i.e. inviting a public figure as quest using a well known venue, getting the press briefed before, during and after the events, using advertisement where necessary. Special events could cover such activities as celebrations, anniversaries, seminars, exhibitions, products introduction. Book launch, openings, seminars and competitions, convocations, sales conferences, open days, e.t.c factory openings news conferences, press reception, press luncheon, annual general meetings e.t.c. A well-chosen personality well briefed or a well-organized event can make your organization the talking point of the industry. At the same time, considerable good will can be created amongst those guests invited to attend to meet your celebrity. And good follow-up using the pictures of the event can make those who did not attend wish they had!
Government Relations/Government Liaison
The main focus of government relations is the analyzing and interpreting of government and legislative issues, counseling management and communicating the organization’s position to government bodies. Government relations, requires more than the efforts of individual companies or organizations. The use of an association of companies and manufactures as rallying points for lobbying or other pressure group activities is important.
- helping install modern methods and techniques in local
- government operations either as business volunteers or on a contract basis
- serving as volunteers on government commissions and task forces
- granting employees leaves-of-absence to run for political offices or to serve in advisory or administrative posts at the local and state level.
- taking advocacy position on a public issue
- supporting sales to government
A good government PR is essential for an organization’s survival because of the key role of government, at all level that make decisions that can impact on an organization existence and operations.
Fund raising programmes are the major sources of funding non-commercial or non-profit organizations. A PR practitioners may be charged with raising funds for the following causes.
- Community development. The community may be in need of certain infrastructure, and the idea is to appeal to people who are well-off within or outsider the community to contribute to such a cause.
- Health facility-to equip hospital and probably build more buildings
- Victims of natural disasters-floods or was victims may have lost all they have in war or flood and need to be rehabilitated
- Sports-like raising money got the Olympic games, etc.
- Religious purpose-to raise funds to build church mosque or worship center
- To aid a cause-the cause they include entertainment or mass mobilization
A contemporary view of why people give donations asserts that people give to get. The concept of transaction is based on he belief that people give because of some kind of expectations.
The PR implications of this is that for effective-fund-raising, the public relations practitioner must ask himself what does the donor get in return for giving. To this end, nine types of reason/motives have been identified.
- The need for self-esteem. To satisfy a psychological need. This means that individuals may give because they want to boost their self-image or ego.
- The need for recognition from others. To satisfy a sociological need. This means that individuals may give to win recognition from others or the need to belong based on class or social status.
- Fear or insecurity/guilt. May be donating out of guilt over deed of the past-treading on others while climbing up the ladder etc.
- Habitual giver-these give because it has become a normal thing, especially done by small donors.
- Nuisance givers-Those who give to get rid of the seemingly noisy or inconveniences from callers.
- Giving under pressure-These give only when they are required or compelled to like being compelled to give at the office or club by virtue of ones membership there.
- People to people givers-These individuals give because of a sense of solidarity. Those who believe that must be good to man or humanists.
- Faith-giving-giving based on the requirements of ones faith-giving for moral or religious reasons.
- The captive givers-these give because of a real sense of sorrow-emotionally and sympathetically involved.
It is this reason for giving that the fundraiser should exploit to get each group to give. Programmes, which will exploit or satisfy these motives, should be developed to achieve effective participation.
Fund raising is purely a PR activity. The idea behind fund raising is to appeal to the minds of the people to open their wallet to support a cause. The strategy must be persuasive, deliberate and visionary. If the practitioners fail to appeal enough to the mind of the people to support a cause, he may not win the support of such people again.
In case of fund raising for charity, use of photographs is very important to bring vivid images of the conditions of the beneficiaries to appeal to people to donate.
The main objective of financial PR is to create better understanding between the company and the financial community, make them perceive the company as a good place to invest in.
The financial community includes:
- The stock exchange
- The stock brokers, analyst and consultants
- Unlisted or over the counter dealers
- Investment bankers
- Commercial banks (trust departments)
- Insurance companies that buy common stocks
- Mutual funds and investment trusts
- Trustees of estates and other institutions
- The financial press
- The investing general public
The next objective is to build and sustain shareholder interest in the company and promote positive press opinion of the company’s equities and profitability.
Corporate PR (Corporate Image)
The corporate image consists of the totality of all the impressions that a company makes on all its audience. The corporate images helps to determine how a person will behave towards an organisation.
Frank Jefkin’s explains further that the corporate image is the way the organization itself is perceived by the various publics.
Public opinions plays an important role in forming the individual’s image of an organisation. This underlines the importance of communication between an organisation and its publics.
Good vision, creativity, sustained research and considerable funding are essential in the development of a corporate identity. Olin’s (1989) argues that the global success of Coca-Cola, which is probably the world’s famous and ubiquitous brand name, is a tribute to the ingenuity, financial dedication and immense sums of money devoted to communicating this identity worldwide.
To embark on corporate image systems, the organisation needs to carry out come corporate research; such would cover the following areas.
- Analysis of the organisation’s present communication practice.
- Analysis of the opinion of members of staff in relation to the organisation’s image.
- Analysis of public opinion about the organisation and its activities.
Based on these findings, the organisation would be able to identify the areas as well as the means of developing the corporate image;
- The product or services image; this involves the packaging, the name, the graphics, as well as the outlets used by the organisation. In addition to these physical attributes of the organisation’s product or service, product-positioning strategy is also important. Positioning refers to a deliberate attempt by the organisation to build a ‘personality’ for itself and its products. In other words, this is an attempt to create a particular picture desired by the organisation in the minds of members of the publics.
- Employees impression; this involves the development of employees loyalty to the organisation as well as the training of employees on how to deal with the public (their appearance-their total personality especially for those who have regular contacts with the public).
- The organisations locating and building; this includes the locations (area) of the organization (company), the building both interior and exterior and also the organization’s ‘Voice” in relation to pertinent public issues.
- Corporate advertising; these are advertisements sponsored by the organisation with the objectives of enhancing its corporate image or developing and sustaining goodwill (i.e. placing the photograph of the employees as a teams in the advertisement).
- Corporate identification media; this includes the organisation name, logo, house colours vehicles, uniforms, etc. (These are used to create a distinct identity for the organisation so that it stands out in the crowd. Corporate Advertising
Corporate advertising is advertising whose objectives are to make favoruable known the organisation behind the product or services, not the product or service itself.
Corporate advertising is used to promote the business or financial interest of the organisation. Such advertising features information about the organization and its functions so that people will have more confidence in it and in the products or services it provides.
To be classified as corporate advertising, an advertisement must meet one of more of the following qualifications:
- It must educate inform or impress the public regarding the organisation’s policies functions, facilities, objectives, ideals and standards.
- It must build favoruable opinion about the organisation by stressing the competence of the organisation’s management, its scientific knowledge, manufacturing skills, technological break through and product improvements and contribution to social advancement and public welfare, and on the other hand, must offset unfavoruable publicity and negative attitudes.
- It must sell the company as a good place to walk.
Types of Corporate Advertising
Frank Jefkins has identified five types of corporate advertising as:
- Prestige or institutional: is used for image building putting across the merits and achievement of the company in a pungent and positive way.
- Advocacy or issue; is more often propaganda, presenting a case for a business or stating its opposition in relation to a political or social issue. It may be used to defend or state the organisation’s own side of the story.
- Diversification and take-over: is used to show the true breath of a company’s activities and operations, or directed at the investor market. It may also be used to announce mergers and take-overs.
- Crisis advertising: when crisis strikes urgent advertising may be necessary.
- Financial advertising: announcing share issues, going to the stock market or annual report and annual general meetings.
- Another types of corporate advertising listed by Richard Stanley are: Patronage, Public Relations, and Public Service Corporate advertising.
Self Assessment Exercise
- Why is it important for an organisation to devote adequate PR resources in managing its employee relations?
3.2 Areas of Work of Public Relations Practitioners
As you prepare to enter the held of public relations, it is useful for you to be acquainted with the various tasks you will be required to perform as part of your day to day activities.
The work of public relations practitioners fall into many area of functions. Daramola (2003) has identified the specific tasks performed by a professional public relations practitioner to include:
Writing: Almost every public relations activity requires good writing skill. Good writing skill in essential to produce reports, news release, PR feature article, product information, fact sheet, radio or TV copy, magazine or newspaper article, speech of executives technical brochure or position paper.
Editing: More elaborate PR programmes, activities or events require the editing of publications such as company house journal, shareholder news letter, company annual report or other regular information bulletin.
Research and Evaluation: Public relation officers conduct surveys to measure public opinion, perceptions attitudes and beliefs on a continuous basis. As research is needed for background information on a public relations problem or opportunity, public relations programme would always end with an evaluation.
Mass Media Production: A public relations practitioner should have adequate knowledge of art, graphics, layout and typography as well as photography, radio and television production to enable him/her critically evaluate the work of specialists or contractors who provide support services such as artists, models, printers, photographers, audio and video producers as well as advertising agencies.
Corporate Counselling: As you mature in the profession to higher level, you may sometimes be engaged to advise top management or leaders of institutions about public opinion or reaction to company decision or action.
Crisis Communication: A public relations officer counsels management about what to say and do in emergencies such as recalling unsafe products (like the Indomie crisis or the “My Pickin” teething powder) or plane crash (like the ADC plane crash in Abuja in October, 2006). As a public relations officer it is your duty to manage the flow of information between your organisation and the public so as not aggravate the crisis. As part of preventive public reactions, it is necessary to plan to avoid crisis. However, since crisis can occur anytime, it is the duty to counsel management how to contain the pace of events and prevent them from getting out of hand. (We shall discuss this topic in a later topic on crisis management).
Public Speaking: As a public relations practitioner, you may be involved in preparing speeches for senior company officials or represent your organisation or client at a gathering or forum. Speaking engagements of a public relations officer may include press interviews, as well as being a guest lecturer at a professional seminar or training course.
Strategic Planning: Public relations practitioners may sometimes deal with the determination of institutional needs, missions or philosophies as well as helping to define objectives and goals of organisations.
Public relations is a professional field which is diverse and is practiced by trained and experienced professional who operate efficiently and competently in the various areas. It is not an all-comers field or for drop-outs or those who have no specified role in an organisation. It requires high competence, knowledge and integrity to function effectively in any given area of the profession.
In this unit, we have tried to examine the various areas in which professionals practice their tasks as public relations practitioners.
6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT
- Why is the management of employee relations crucial in any public relations work in an organisation, and what is the importance of credibility in maintaining sound employee relations?