What is the definition of public relations? I have noticed quite often that there’s a difference in perception on PR people and the media view “public relations” and how many business owners view public relations.
Defining Public Relations
The definition you learn in school goes something like this: “Public relations is the management function designed to gauge and manage the perceptions of its key publics and to execute a measurable program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
If you look at the middle of the definition, you will see the phrase “key publics” and not just “public.” That’s because the word “public” in public relations does not refer to the general public at large. Publics is basically the same as markets, stakeholders, etc… If you come across a PR person who thinks that public refers to the general public you should run because it shows their thinking is limited.
What are publics?
As I alluded to above, a public is literally one key group of individuals that is important to your company or your organization, and the first thing a PR person should do is examine what those groups (publics) are. Let’s use Apple as an example:
Example: A few of Apple’s Publics
Employees (which is probably broken down at different levels).
Customers (which would be broken down by country or language).
Analysts (the kind that follow company strategy and product and not stock).
That’s enough for now.
Once you figure out how to group people, you need to gauge their opinions/feelings toward your company and what kinds of things will be of interest to them. How do they receive information? What publications are they reading? Do they have a publication? Should you create one? (employee newsletters). What do you want them to do, feel and believe? I’m not talking about lying here. The inside always shines through. What other channels can you use to disseminate information while reaching your key publics (target markets)? How can you better foster two-way communication? How do you measure the effectiveness of opinions and actions? . . . the list goes on.
These are all things to consider.
What else should I consider?
If I were to use just one example, I would pick the power of the Wall Street Journal. I think it has like 2 million readers or something like that, but if you know that WSJ columnist Walt Mossberg is a Mac lover and he has an audience this big, are you going to spend 100k on a one-page ad that people will not even look at, or are you going to spend 100k and get months of PR groundwork for articles that engage readers and serve as third-party endorsements for your company? Do you want an ad for one day or something that people can link to that also gets indexed, archived and passed around via the Internet? Remember too. When Walt says something nice, the WSJ is saying something nice. Wal-Mart, Google, YouTube. They didn’t get the brand awareness they have from advertising. They all spent boatloads on PR, and it has paid nicely.
Something to think about.