Public Relations

by Debbie Leven

The value of PR

It’s important for any organisation to base their PR plans on sound objectives. While generating press and media coverage may be important, it is not the objective in itself. Organisations may have a number of PR objectives and these will probably vary, depending on the audience or ‘public’ to be targeted. In general, organisations are keen to establish and enhance their reputation – building awareness of the organisation and its products and services. Specific objectives might include

  • Educating
  • Influencing
  • Building trust
  • Informing
  • Stimulating demand
  • Repairing reputation
  • Building reputation
  • Stimulating debate or interest
  • Creating new business partnerships
  • Motivating employees
  • Establishing a brand
  • Building goodwill.

Why PR is important to an organisation

The impression that stakeholders have of an organisation is crucial to that organisation’s future. For the most part, organisations are concerned about their respective reputations and the impact on audiences, such as investors, donors, customers, potential clients, charities, pressure groups, the local community, business contacts and politicians.

Investors may consider PR when deciding whether or not to buy shares and this in turn impacts on the share price. Those considering spending their money buying the organisation’s products or services may be influenced in a number of ways. PR about the product or service will raise awareness. In addition, positive PR about the organisation in general may encourage the potential customer to think about the organisation more favourably in comparison to competitors.

Without publicity there can be no public support, and without public support every nation must decay.

Benjamin Disraeli

Ideally, PR is just one element of the activity an organisation will undertake to get noticed and establish and build a reputation. Ideally, PR is integrated with, and leverages, other marketing activities and is particularly effective when it endorses, and is endorsed by, stakeholder/customer experience.

There is good PR and bad PR

Ideally, PR activity will follow on from defined PR objectives. Good PR, therefore, can be assessed with regard to the extent to which it helps achieve those objectives. The impact of press and media relations is often cumulative, which is why sustained PR activity tends to be more effective than ad hoc efforts. So, an organisation will make efforts to build its profile. This relies on having news stories and also creating opportunities that will interest journalists, as well as delivering those in a way that match the needs of the journalist. The PR department will also want to establish relationships with journalists and build a reputation, so that those journalists will seek comment and opinion from the organisation in relation to relevant stories (stories that would not have originated from the organisation itself).

Bad PR is anything that can damage the reputation of an organisation. Unfortunately, incidents and crises do happen. Sometimes, when something has been identified as being potentially damaging, the PR department may get involved in advising on communications. Often, it is how the organisation deals with the incident or crisis that matters – effective communication can often enhance reputation despite a crisis or incident.