Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.
Strategic management allows an organization to integrate its overall purpose and long-term vision with internal capabilities and current and upcoming external environmental pressures, including socioeconomic trends and competitor actions. The strategic plan helps an organization adapt to an ever-changing world and provides a framework to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships as well as to anticipate and effectively deal with potential problems and opportunities.
- Communications management involves developing communications objectives that are consistent with an organization’s overall goals. Communications managers identify stakeholders, publics, and audiences and devise long-term strategies and tactics to reach them.
- Crisis management is needed when an organization’s operations become involved in an emergency affecting the public and/or the health of the organization itself. Once the crisis occurs, the manager implements plans to deal with it responsibly.
- Issues management is an ongoing activity that includes studying public policy matters and other societal issues of concern to the organization. The manager identifies issues, problems, and trends relevant to the organization and executes a program to deal with them.
- Relationship management, considered by many to be the heart of public relations, revolves around establishing, enhancing, and maintaining effective and mutually beneficial relationships with key stakeholders and publics.
- Reputation management calls for planning and implementing policies, procedures, and activities that demonstrate an organization’s commitment to public and social responsibility and ethical behaviour.
- Risk management is a type of preventive PR where an organization focuses on identifying areas of potential danger and recommending needed action before any threat develops into a crisis.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a combination of several management roles as it centres around the organization’s strategies for being – and being seen as – a good corporate citizen. CSR strategies and tactics can include:
- Social marketing – activities involved in the creation and implementation of programs designed to promote acceptance of a social practice or idea. Notable examples include anti-smoking and don’t-drink-and-drive campaigns.
- Corporate philanthropy – recognizing corporate obligations and responsibilities to the community or society at large by making monetary or other donations to a nonprofit group or cause. This can include in-kind donations of the organization’s products and/or services.
- Cause-related marketing – a business arrangement between the organization and a nonprofit entity. Although there may be elements of philanthropy, as the name implies, it’s primarily a marketing technique as it’s most often done on a prid-pro-quo basis. It may be based on purchase-triggered donations where a business promises to donate an agreed-upon sum to a cause whenever a specific product or service is sold. It could involve providing funds to help sponsor an event that furthers the organization’s interest or is consistent with the organization’s values or it may revolve around commemorative giving where the organization or product name is featured prominently and publicly with the monetary “gift.”
- Corporate sponsorship – supporting an event or cause by providing corporate resources in exchange for an opportunity to create good will with key stakeholders, enhance the organization’s image and reputation, and or increase sales.
Organizational documents. The creation and maintenance of specific organizational documents designed to keep the organization on track and ensure that all involved are kept in the loop.
- Mission statement – a brief, concise description of an organization’s raison d’être – sets the tone for the organization and its relationships, captures its character and values, and identifies, in a general way, those it serves.
- Vision statement – a succinct, realistic, credible, easy-to-understand, relevant, and ambitious description of the niche the organization wants to occupy in the future.
- Organizational goals – a document that contains short-term, medium-term, long-term, and sustaining goals relating to the organization’s overall internal and external relationships and planned progress. Departments, such as sales and marketing, also create goals to add to this document.
- Organizational values – a list (often with an explanation) of the values to which the organization subscribes. The document reflects the approach the organization takes to its publics, provides insight on its world view, and helps define and direct its commitment to corporate social responsibility.
- Publics inventory – a list of those publics – which may include segments from various stakeholder groups – who share a common interest, concern, or bond (demographics or psychographics). Some publics are always on the radar, while others form when they collectively need or want something from the organization or when the organization determines it needs something from them.
- Organizational messages – long-term messages along with facts and data that back them up. A core message is a very brief message that encapsulates why an organization exists. This short phrase relates to the mission and is sufficiently broad to work with all key messages. It may be included in the organizational boilerplate. Key messages define what an organization does to fulfill its mission. Each goes with the core message as it provides more specific details. (Wherever possible, practitioners include proof points – facts and data that back up the key messages.)
- Organizational almanac – a document that provides a history of the organization, including accomplishments, activities, and milestones.
- Organizational standards manual – a document that contains standards for ensuring quality and consistency in how the organizational image is communicated. It provides rules on how the organization’s name and logo (font, size, colour, etc.) are to be used and may also give guidelines for such style concerns as abbreviations, spelling, trademark terminology, etc. It also may contain an overall boilerplate for the organization as well as boilerplates to be used when describing products and/or services.
Return on investment (ROI) – A measurement of the return an organization receives on its public relations expenditures. The ROI can affect the organization’s bottom line through sales. In some cases, those expenditures do not have a direct or immediate effect on that bottom line but they can contribute to fiscal success by creating good will, enhancing the image of the organization, creating interest in the product/service, etc. Some purists believe ROI should not be used in any PR measurement, pointing out that it is an accounting valuation method that means “percent return on a financial investment.” For this point of view: http://kdpaine.blogs.com/themeasurementstandard/
Research is a term used to describe the systematic gathering of information and data prior to, during, and after an endeavour. There are three stages of research: formative, intermediate, and summative.
- Formative research is done at the beginning of a campaign or project to gather and/or consult information on the organization itself, the issues that affect it, its stakeholders, message content, and appropriate media to reach audiences.
- Situation analysis– a document that contains all the pertinent information gathered during formative research on the situation, including information on relevant internal and external stakeholders and publics, environmental (social, economic, and political) considerations, and an analysis of key relationships. The document includes a SWOT analysis, a focus statement, and a benchmark to be used during the planning stage to help set overall goals. It may also include a baseline media measure – an analysis of how the media is currently covering the organization/situation, including the extent of coverage, type of coverage, treatment, and tone. The latter can be obtained through a tracking and reporting system set up to analyze media coverage of an issue.
- SWOT analysis– an identification of the major and most relevant organizational and/or project strengths and weaknesses (internal) as well as the major and key environmental opportunities and threats (external) facing the organization and its stakeholders/publics.
- Focus statement– a succinct statement that summarizes what was learned about the situation. It is found at the end of the situation analysis.
- Intermediate research is done to monitor progress in the midst of a campaign or project. It can include monitoring the ebb and flow of people visiting a website, tracking the number and type of participants attending a multi-day event, and gathering data on the type and nature of inquires. The information gained allows for major overhauls or tiny tweaks to ensure success.
- Summative research is done when the campaign or project is completed. This evaluation determines not only whether or not the campaign/project was successful but also why or why not. It provides information needed to plan for the future. Summative research uses relevant evaluation mechanisms – media monitoring/analysis, surveys, panel studies, interviews, etc. – to measure process and outcome objectives.
- Process objectives are set so the practitioner can measure outputs – what was done during every stage of the project or campaign. Information gathered is used to maintain, change or refine strategies and tactics for a future endeavour.
- Outcome objectives specify the result(s) – knowledge, attitude, and/or behaviour – sought with a specific stakeholder group, public, and/or audience.
Four P’s of marketing is a concept used to encompass the four factors to be considered – product, price, place, and promotion (including advertising and public relations). Some marketing experts include two additional factors or P’s: people and performance.
- People – those associated with the organization, such as front-line employees, distributors, and franchisees whose actions and reactions can affect the organization’s overall reputation and sales.
- Performance – an amalgamation of the other five P’s related to the product/service. In other words, if it is priced right, promoted properly, distributed conveniently, and backed up by friendly, helpful, knowledgeable people – it will have performed well in the eyes of consumers.
Selling propositions are based on the key feature/benefit that relates to the consumer’s self-interest. This can relate to consumer needs and wants, values, feelings, or lifestyles.
- USP – the unique selling point – the grand daddy of selling propositions – is based on what makes the product or service different from its competitors.
- ESP – the emotional selling proposition – stresses the feelings a product or service generates in its users.
- OSP – the organizational selling point – bases appeals on the reputation of the organization that makes the product or provides the service.
- MSP – the me-selling proposition – is driven by an approach that encourages consumers to assume ownership of the brand and advocate its use to others. Many such consumer devotees gather in brand communities made up of fans who spontaneously and voluntarily promote their favourite brand.
Brand refers to all the tangible and intangible attributes of a brand (product or organization) that create an image in the public mind.
- Brand associations – the knowledge and feelings consumers associate with a brand name. This may include expectations for brand performance
- Brand character/personality – using human qualities and attributes to describe the brand (use, function, performance, etc.).
- Brand character statement – a synopsis of the brand’s character and personality, often including information on how the brand embodies corporate values. Some brand character statements include a mirror effect, i.e., they compliment those who use the product or service, thereby reflecting the customer’s intelligence, good taste, etc.
- Brand commitment – the degree of loyalty a consumer feels for a particular brand. It is expressed by the consumer’s likelihood to buy that brand again and/or recommend it to others.
- Personal brand – the practice of individuals contributing directly to how the world perceives them
- Brand advocacy – people who are tasked (either paid, or unpaid) with increasing public awareness and generating sales opportunities while embodying the brand’s image
Brand equity is value attributed to a brand in the marketplace as expressed by the opinions and behavours of customers, other consumers, key influencers, opinion leaders, etc. Brand essence captures the promise of the brand in a couple of words that express its key benefit to consumers. Brand identity involves the physical and visual “look” of the brand, including its name and package design (colour, packaging materials, font, graphics, etc.) Brand positioning is the niche the brand occupies in the minds of a key audience or in the public mind at large. A brand positioning statement is the brief written description of the desired niche or position. Brand tone of voice establishes how the “brand” speaks to consumers, i.e., a little cheeky, serious and authoritative, fun, etc. This tone is used in all communications. Brand management ensures that everything everyone associated with the brand says and does (deliberately and inadvertently) supports all the brand’s promises and expectations. This often is called 360-degree branding.
PR and marketing communications
Word of mouth involves the passing on of information in an informal person-to-person manner via such channels as face-to-face communication, social networking, telephone, IM, and email conversations. Most recent studies have found that the most trusted sources of information about products/services are other consumers. On a personal level, the most credible sources of information are friends and family members.
Two-step flow process refers to the process whereby messages get to receivers through a second source, including opinion leaders, key influencers, etc.
- Opinion leaders – those who knowingly or unknowingly influence others’ opinions on a certain subject or subjects. Formal opinion leaders have influence because of their position in society, while informal opinion leaderss or influencers can influence others because they are perceived by their peers as being expert and/or sincere on a specific subject.
Target audience is a term that refers specifically to any groups targeted to be the recipients of a message. Target audiences may comprise entire individual stakeholder groups or publics who belong to several different stakeholder groups.
- Active audience – audience members who already are interested in an organization, issue, or cause. Instead of waiting to receive information on it, they seek it out from many sources and when doing so, they speak as well as listen.
- Passive audience – audience members who are not interested in an organization, issue, or cause or who are not interested at a specific time. Very few groups are made up entirely of active or passive members. The key often is to determine where the majority sits.
- Intervening audience – a group that can intervene with target audiences by passing on – even endorsing your message. This audience often is made up of individuals who are opinion leaders or key influencers with your target audience.
- Media audience – all those individuals who read, watch, or listen to a specific media outlet. Many media organizations compile demographic and psychographic information on their audiences.
- Delivered audience – all potential or actual viewers, readers, listeners, or participants who can be reached.
- Effective audience – all potential or actual viewers, readers, listeners, or participants in the target audience who are part of the delivered audience.