by Jane Herbert, managing director, Pilotmax
Public relations (PR) is an often misunderstood and under-valued management tool. To many it is seen as just another form of advertising while others dismiss PR as dealing with journalists and sending out press releases. In fact, PR can play a central role in the achievement of specific objectives at all levels of an organisation's work by focusing, reinforcing and communicating an effective message.
Used properly, public relations is an excellent and cost effective method of improving the image of an individual, organisation or product. It is about ensuring that your audience (customer) receives and accepts the message you wish to project.
Public relations involves many other disciplines and it can have an impact on every aspect of an organisation. It is about projecting the right message and as such, it can involve press relations, advertising, marketing, sponsorship, exhibitions, local community events, the environment and public affairs.
Communication is the key to public relations - communicating the right message to the public, employees, shareholders and other specific target audiences.
The Institute of Public Relations defines public relations as
`the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain good will and mutual understanding between an organisation and its customers.'
Why use PR?
A company can survive without PR, but with a planned PR programme the company can expect better results and an enhanced reputation.
Obviously no amount of good relations can hide a bad product or protect an unethical company. For public relations to succeed the organisation must be credible. PR alone cannot cure a terminally sick organisation. What it can do is help to promote a positive corporate reputation and to minimise the damage that occurs when something does go wrong.
A good corporate reputation can be likened to a healthy bank balance. The better the reputation, the more ‘reputation credit’ you have with your stakeholders and if people think well of you, it makes it easier for you to do what you want – even if that means changing working practices or increasing your prices. In addition, when things go wrong the more credit you have in your reputation bank the better you will weather the storm (provided the issue is properly managed). But if you have no credit at all, there is only one way to go.
What happens if you don't use PR?
No matter how good you are, if you don't communicate with your public, you won't put your message across. You will lose out to your rivals who are using public relations more aggressively to ensure effective communication.
It is not possible to abdicate from a public image. If you are not managing the information by which people form their opinions, their view of your company will be based solely on what they hear from other (uncontrolled)
You cannot quantify what you lose if you don't use PR, but companies that do use it can see the benefits in increased awareness of themselves and their products. Companies feel effective PR working for them in many ways:
• better staff recruitment and retention
• greater market share
• customer recognition and loyalty
• motivated sales force
• shareholder satisfaction
In other words a structured PR programme helps a company operate more successfully on all levels of business.
Cultivating a good public relations image is worthwhile and having a bad image or even no image at all in the eyes of your market can have disastrous consequences.
In order to operate more effectively and efficiently an organisation needs to recognise and meet the needs of all its customers - some more obvious than others.
• Identifying all potential customers
• Identifying and responding to their needs
• Communicating with them
Responding to your customers' needs
• What do your customers want from you?
• What do you provide that your rivals don’t?
• What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)?
• Is your market aware of your company's USP's?
Communicating with your customers
• How do your existing customers hear about new developments, projects and
• How do potential customers hear about your organisation?
• Are you quoted in the press, more or less frequently than your competitors?
• Do you monitor your communication material to ensure that it is relevant and effective?
• What do your employees think of your company?
• Is your belief in the organisation the same as your public image?
The process of reviewing communication in an organisation is often referred to as a "communications audit".
Some PR facts:
• PR is about presenting a positive image
• PR is about managing reputations
• Customers take notice (and are willing to believe) a news story in a magazine
• What someone else says about you is at least ten times more believable than what
you say about yourself
• Used properly and to complement other parts of an organisation's activities, PR can
actually save money!
Why should you use PR?
Use PR because:-
• It creates a good image
• It makes people more keen to do business with you
• It improves your standing in your own market
• It makes it easier to attract, and retain, a high calibre of workforce
• It puts you in the media when you want to be there
• It allows you to control the message
• It allows you to create the image you wish for your company
• It gives you ‘licence’ to change your working practices – increase costs etc,
• It can help to minimise the damage when things go wrong
How important is corporate identity?
The answer is very. A strong, positive corporate identity can enhance your company across all its operations, while a poor or negative identity will be equally effective in weakening your reputation. A good image can take years to build, but it can be quickly tarnished by negative publicity. Great care, and effort, is needed to foster and protect an organisation's reputation.
A strong corporate identity results in people trusting in the value of you and your products and/or services. They are happy to deal with you and give you their custom. They will come back to you time and time again if you gain their loyalty. Your reputation is enhanced and this in turn helps to reinforce your corporate identity.
“The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation; that away men are but gilded loam or painted clay” – Shakespeare, Richard II
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About Pilotmax: A PR Company based in Richmond Upon Thames. Working with both consumer and corporate clients.