Public Relations is a Discipline of Depth

Most of us prefer to place our trusted business affairs, such as strategic outreach through public and media relations, in the hands of experienced practitioners. Whether with our attorney or IT vendor, our airline pilot or our accountant, we value experience when the job is complex and the outcome critical to our success.

This same principle applies to the selection of a public relations and marketing adviser. Effective public relations does not happen by gravitational pull; rather, it is the outcome of incisive strategy skillfully executed, managed and measured. It can be taught in school – but it is learned only through experience.

Public relations is commonly mistaken as the domain of generalists. At many firms, “paint by number” strategy drives “fill in the blank” planning to create “cookie cutter” campaigns. Although cookie cutters can rapidly create dozens of identical cookies, they rarely leave a distinct impression. They certainly cannot convey a firm’s unique value proposition.

Contrary to popular misconception, public relations with an impact is the discipline of depth. In today’s business world, successful practitioners are those who can step outside the box of traditional agency practice, and embrace the communications trends that are working today. Communication is no longer an arena in which businesses dictate their messages to consumers. Consumers, with multiple communications channels available to them, now have the power and the desire to form their own opinions based on a survey of the information available to them.

Indeed, media consumers now have the power to create their own messaging and counteract corporate messaging that they feel is inaccurate. This is a Web 2.0 world, which is being increasingly and consistently defined by consumers. Businesses who are not agile and able to modify their messaging and tactics to utilize and work with this trend will quickly become irrelevant to their markets and unable to expand their reach by targeting new market sectors available through emerging communications channels.

As such, effective public relations practitioners must be knowledgeable not only of their clients’ business models and areas of expertise, but also in target market behaviors with regards to media consumption. Practitioners must be able to utilize innovative, multi channel strategies to deliver messages to consumers with messages they will understand and through their media of choice.
Public relations professionals must develop the ability to integrate and consolidate all communications channels to reach target audiences, and understand the synergies that exist between all communication media. They must combine traditional marketing and communication experience with new technology and market research to create outreach strategies that are effective, relevant and cutting-edge.

This principle is demonstrably true in specialized, niche industry practices, including technology public relations, financial public relations and mortgage technology public relations, to name a few. Although clients in these industries retain a deep understanding of current technologies as means to solve specific problems, they often do not have the knowledge to utilize technology in a way that produces effective marketing and clear communications with their target audiences. In realms such as these, savvy communications experts who are independent of traditional agency “cookie-cutter” approaches and organizational restrictions can make a significant impact on behalf of their clients.

The Internet is truly the realm of small businesses and innovative solutions. Big box providers depend on their existing brand recognition and market penetration to do their marketing for them, leaving a huge vacuum of potential for smaller business seeking a competitive advantage. Smart public relations practitioners who understand how to utilize the Internet to support an overall integrated communications and marketing strategy will be poised for rapid success by connecting their clients to relevant messages through emerging media channels.

Public relations is a discipline of depth. All a savvy practitioner needs to succeed is an innovative approach and a depth of mind.

For more information on technology public relations, financial public relations and mortgage technology public relations, visit depthpr.com.

Career Training Opportunities in Public Relations and Corporate Communications

Have you ever thought about why people trust certain product brands? Or how companies manage their public image? Or how certain Hollywood movie stars seem to appear in the press over and over again? The one thing they all have in common is effective public relations.

Public relations specialists (also referred to as media representatives and communications officers) serve as advocates for businesses, nonprofit associations, hospitals, universities, and other organizations. They build and maintain positive relationships with the press and the public. Media reps not only manage the day-to-day business of a company’s image, but they may also be called upon to repair the damage done by a corporate misstep or other crisis.

Jobs in public relations have traditionally been concentrated in large cities, where many businesses and trade associations have their headquarters, and press services and other communications facilities are readily available. Many public relations consulting firms, for example, are in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. However, because of the internet, in recent years corporate communications jobs are increasingly found nearly anywhere.

How do public relations specialists manage an organization’s message? Primarily by cultivating relationships with the press, and then providing the press with positive news stories. Communications managers draft press releases and send them to reporters in the media who might print or broadcast their material. You might be surprised to know that many newspaper stories, magazine articles, and radio or television special reports begin as press releases from media specialists.

Crisis management can be important. If a supermarket chain is accused of selling tainted meat, for example, the supermarket must immediately take action to correct the problem. The next task may involve counteracting the negative impression that has been created in the minds of customers. People may switch to a competitor because of stories circulating about bad meat at the supermarket. It’s the task of the public relations team at the supermarket to make sure that the community knows that the problem has been fixed and that the chain can be trusted to sell healthy food.

In government, information officers and press secretaries keep the public informed about the activities of agencies and officials. A U.S. senator may employ a team of press officers to keep the senator’s constituents informed and monitor what the press is saying about their boss. If a negative story appears, the press officers will try to respond with something positive. During an election campaign, public relations officers are key members of the campaign team because they must constantly evaluate their candidate’s standing in the polls and image in the press.

Education and training: A college degree in public relations, advertising, journalism, or communications is often required even for entry-level positions. Some organizations seek college graduates who have worked in electronic or print journalism, those who have communication skills and training, or who have experience in a field related to the firm’s business.

Many colleges and universities offer associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in communications. A public relations program may include courses in media relations principles and techniques, communications management and administration, writing, visual communications, and research. Advertising, business administration, finance, journalism, political science, psychology, sociology, and creative writing may also be part of a program.

Job growth could be impressive. According to the U.S. Government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the current decade 2008-2018 employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow 24 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations.

In an increasingly competitive business environment, the need for effective media relations should create a need for these workers in organizations of all types and sizes. People with foreign language capabilities also are in great demand. Employment in public relations firms should grow as firms outsource to provide public relations services rather than hire in-house staff.

Perhaps you could be the person who shapes public opinion for a company, a product, or a candidate. With the right training and opportunities, a career in public relations could be yours.

But how do you begin to get the training you need? A good way is to log onto a reputable online career college search engine and directory. You’ll be able to search for schools in your area that offer the degree you need, or find an online degree program. You can compare programs and even learn about flexible schedules and financial aid. Then you can request free information from the schools that interest you, visit a few, and make your decision. In less time than you think, you could be trained for a new rewarding career as a public relations specialist.

Let’s Blow The Lid Off Public Relations

And show it for what it is – a humdinger of a strategy
machine using cutting-edge communications tactics that
lead directly to program success. And all because
perceptions were altered, behaviors modified and the
employer/client satisfied with the end result.

When everybody benefits like that, blowing the lid off
public relations is not only justified, it’s necessary!

Do you take the core strengths of public relations into
account as you manage those communications tactics?

Because if you don’t, you’re missing the sweet-spot of
public relations. The communications tactics you use
must work together to create the behavioral change you
want in certain groups of people important to the success
of your business.

But NO organization – business, non-profit, association
or public sector – can succeed today unless the behaviors
of its most important audiences are in-sync with the
organization’s objectives.

For your operation, that means public relations professionals
must modify somebody’s behavior if they are to help hit your
objective – all else are means to that end.

Which is why, when public relations goes on to successfully
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

How can we be so certain? Question: how can you measure
the results of an activity more accurately than when you
clearly achieve the goal you set at the beginning of that
activity? You can’t. It defines success.

Public relations is no different. The client/employer wants
our help in altering counterproductive perceptions among
key audiences which almost always change behaviors in a
way that helps him or her get to where they want to be.

Now, to achieve that goal, public relations practitioners
must be skilled in many tactical disciplines. Everything
from media relations, public speaking and a dozen kinds
of writing to financial communications, special events,
issue tracking and crisis management, to name just a few.

But too often, the employer/client’s tendency is to see little
beyond a tactic’s immediate impact. For example, a speech
and how it was received, a news release and how it was
picked up and presented in a newspaper or on TV, or a
special event and the audience’s reaction.

Of course those concerns are understandable and shouldn’t be
lightly dismissed. But the question also must be asked, to
what end are we applying those tactics?

Well, WHY do we employ public relations tactics anyway?
Could it be for the pure pleasure of doing surveys, making
speeches or editing company magazines? Not likely. We
employ public relations so that, at the end of the day,
somebody’s behavior gets modified.

That leads us directly to the core strength of public relations:
people act on their perception of the facts; those perceptions
lead to certain behaviors; and something can be done about
those perceptions and behaviors that leads to achieving an
organization’s objectives.

To assess those behavior changes and, thus, the degree of
success the core public relations program has achieved, look
for evidence that your tactics have actually changed behavior.
Signs should begin showing up via Internet chatter, in print
and broadcast news coverage, reports from the field, letters-to-
the-editor, consumer and customer reactions, shareholder
letters and comments from community leaders.

Consider doing informal polls of employees, retirees,
industrial neighbors and local businesses as well as collecting
feedback from suppliers, elected officials, union leaders and
government agencies.

The point of this article is that the core strength of public
relations places a special burden on each tactic selected to
carry the message to a target audience: does it/will it make
a tangible, action-producing contribution towards altering
target audience perceptions and behaviors? If not, it should be
dropped and replaced with a tactic that does.

That way, only the strongest tactics will be used allowing public
relations to apply its core strength to the challenge at hand:
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization.

What do I believe the employer/client wants from us? I
believe s/he wants us to use our expertise in a way that helps
achieve his or her business objectives. But regardless of what
strategic plan we create to solve a problem, regardless of what
tactical program we put in place, when all is said and done, we
must modify somebody’s behavior if we are to earn our keep.

So, not one, not two, but three benefits result when the behavioral
changes become apparent, and meet the program’s original
behavior modification goal: First and most important, the public
relations effort is a success.

Second, by achieving the behavioral goal you set at the beginning,
you are taking advantage of a dependable and accurate public relations
performance measurement.

Finally, when the “reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action”
efforts produce a visible, and desired modification in the behaviors
of those people you wish to influence, you are using public relations’
core strength to its full benefit.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your
ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would
be appreciated at [email protected].

Robert A. Kelly © 2005.

Get Results From Your Public Relations Firm: Do’s and Don’ts for Start-Ups Seeking Publicity

Most new business owners know the value of publicity for promoting their company’s reputation and selling their product or service. However, many don’t know how to go about getting it. They may hire a public relations firm – a good idea even for start-ups – then be disappointed with the results.

This does not have to be the case. If you are the owner of a new business, you can have a successful working relationship with your public relations firm and achieve your goals simply by following some basic guidelines.

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts that should put you on the right track.

DO:

1. Expect honest representation. Your public relations firm should have a good idea of what will – and will not – get attention in the news media. They should also know the best media outlets and reporters to approach to get editorial coverage for your business. Listen to them. Problems in a PR firm-client relationship often stem from public relations counselors going against their better judgment and pitching a story they know will not fly, just to please an insistent client. Media pitches for a company with a reputation of sending out material that isn’t newsworthy are likely to be ignored.

2. Communicate everything about your business to your public relations counselor – not just what you think he or she needs to know. You may have some hidden gems of stories in your business that you – being an insider and not attuned to media interests – may not think are all that interesting. You should also share information about any potential problems or embarrassing situations. A PR professional will keep your confidences and help you manage negative publicity, should it occur.

3. Ask for a crisis communication plan. You may never have to utilize it – and let’s hope that’s true – but having a crisis communication plan in place and circulated among top officers of your company will come in handy to tap down negative stories before they balloon into major problems that could damage your company’s reputation.

4. Have a media contact procedure in place. Everyone – from the receptionist to the president – needs to know what to do if and when the media calls. The best advice is to have everyone refer calls from the news media to the public relations firm. They can sort out all the particulars and arrange for any interviews.

5. Respond quickly to interview requests as they are presented to you by your public relations person. Media interviews are an opportunity for you to present your company the way you want it presented. But reporters have deadlines; if you aren’t available, they will interview someone else, and you may miss out on an opportunity to get positive media coverage.

DON’T:

1. Expect a guarantee. Media coverage cannot be guaranteed, unless you do a “pay-for-play” agreement with a particular publication, in which you buy advertising and get an article on your company in return. Other than that type of arrangement – usually referred to as an “advertorial” – no public relations firm can, or should, guarantee coverage.

2. Be a one-hit wonder. One big round of publicity is not going to carry you very far. A good public relations program is an ongoing enterprise, and often a “drip-drip-drip” strategy is better than a one-time splashy feature.

3. Be caught unprepared. Ask for media training. You may be a great communicator in many ways, but doing a media interview is a special skill. Having some knowledge of how the media works, developing strong messages, and practicing delivering them will make you a better, more confident company representative.

4. Expect media coverage to do it all. There are many other ways to reach your targeted audience, including social media, marketing communications, and opportunities for direct engagement. A good PR person will look at your firm – its goals, its product or service offerings, its target markets – and design a communication strategy specific to your needs.

5. Be discouraged if your plan takes a while to get off the ground. You want to have everything – messages, action plan, trained spokespersons, etc. – in place before you go public. First impressions are lasting ones.