Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public.[1] Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.[2] The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.[3] Public relations is thought by many to be propaganda by a different name, ironically, the very term “Public relations” could easily be seen as a public relations ploy to make the idea of propaganda more acceptable.

Public Relations is similar to Analyst Relations, Investor Relations and Public Affairs depending on the firm, organization or population it represents.


[edit] Definition

Ivy Lee and Edward Louis Bernays established the first definition of public relations in the early 1900s as

“a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization… followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined the field as

“the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”[4]

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defined public relations in 1982 as:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”[5]

In 2011 and 2012, the PRSA developed a crowd-sourced definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”[6]

Public relations can also be defined simply as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.[7]

The European view of public relations notes that besides a relational form of interactivity there is also a reflective paradigm that is concerned with publics and the public sphere; not only with relational, which can in principle be private, but also with public consequences of organizational behavior.[8][9]

[edit] History

[edit] Early History

A painting of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, one of the early pioneers of public relations in eighteenth century England.

One early practitioner of public relations is Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who conducted press relations, lobbying and celebrity campaigning on behalf of Charles James Fox, a British politician supporting the Whig party in the late 1700s.[10] In the United States, publicists that promoted circuses, theatrical performances, and other public spectacles are considered a precursor to public relations.

Many of the first practitioners of public relations in the US supported railroads. Scholars believe that the first appearance of the term “public relations” appeared in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature.[11]

Edward Bernays, often described as the father of public relations

Some[who?] historians regard Ivy Lee as the first real practitioner of public relations, but Edward Bernays, a nephew and student of Sigmund Freud, is generally regarded today as the profession’s founder. In the United Kingdom Sir Basil Clarke (1879–1947) was a pioneer of public relations.

[edit] Development as war-time propaganda

The First World War helped stimulate the development of public relations as a profession. Many of the first PR professionals, including Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays, John W. Hill, and Carl Byoir, got their start with the Committee on Public Information (also known as the Creel Committee), which organized publicity on behalf of U.S. objectives during World War I.

In describing the origin of the term public relations, Bernays said, “When I came back to the United States [from the war], I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And propaganda got to be a bad word because of the Germans … using it. So what I did was to try to find some other words, so we found the words Counsel on Public Relations”.[12]

As Harold Lasswell explained in 1928, “public relations” was a term used as a way of shielding the profession from the ill repute increasingly associated with the word “propaganda“: “Propaganda has become an epithet of contempt and hate, and the propagandists have sought protective coloration in such names as ‘public relations council,’ ‘specialist in public education,’ ‘public relations adviser.’ “[13] In the 1930s Edward Bernays started the first vocational course in public relations.[14]

[edit] Oil and cigarettes

Ivy Lee, who has been credited with developing the modern news release (also called a “press release”), espoused a philosophy consistent with what has sometimes been called the “two-way street” approach to public relations in which PR consists of helping clients listen as well as communicate messages to their publics. In practice, however, Lee often engaged in one-way propagandizing on behalf of clients despised by the public, including Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller. Shortly before his death, the US Congress had been investigating Rockefeller’s work on behalf of the controversial Nazi German company IG Farben.

Bernays was the profession’s first theorist. Bernays drew many of his ideas from Sigmund Freud’s theories about the irrational, unconscious motives that shape human behaviour. Bernays authored several books, including Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928), and The Engineering of Consent (1947). He saw public relations as an “applied social science” that uses insights from psychology, sociology, and other disciplines to scientifically manage and manipulate the thinking and behavior of an irrational and “herdlike” public. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society,” he wrote in Propaganda, “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”


One of Bernays’ early clients was the tobacco industry. He consulted psychoanalyst A. A. Brill on how to persuade women to smoke. Brill told him that the desire to smoke was suppressed and could be released by emancipation and that cigarettes could become “torches of freedom” from gender imbalances. In 1929, he orchestrated a now-legendary publicity stunt by convincing women to smoke at the Easter parade in Manhattan as a statement of rebellion against the norms of a male-dominated society. The demonstrators were not aware that a tobacco company was behind the publicity stunt. Bernays dubbed his PR campaign the: “Torches of Liberty Contingent”.[citation needed]

Publicity photos of these beautiful fashion models smoking “Torches of Liberty” were sent to various media outlets and appeared worldwide. As a result, the taboo was dissolved and many women were led to associate the act of smoking with female liberation. Some women went so far as to demand membership in all-male smoking clubs, a highly controversial act at the time. For his work, Bernays was paid a tidy sum by George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company.

Paul Chabas‘s September Morn made famous through a publicity stunt.

Another early practitioner was Harry Reichenbach (1882–1931) a New York-based American press agent and publicist who promoted movies. He claims to have made famous the Paul Chabas painting, September Morn. Supposedly, he saw a print in a Chicago art store window. He made a deal with the store owner who had not sold any of his 2,000 prints. Reichenbach had hired some boys to “ogle” the picture when he showed it to the moralist crusader Anthony Comstock. Comstock was suitably outraged when he saw it. Comstock’s Anti-Vice Society took the case to the court and lost. However, the case aroused interest to the painting, which ultimately sold millions of copies.

[edit] Modern public relations

Advertising dollars in traditional media productions have declined and many traditional media outlets are seeing declining circulation in favor of online and social media news sources. One site even tracked the death of newspapers[15] As readership in traditional media shifts to online media, so have the focus of many in public relations.[16][17] Social media releases,[18] search engine optimization,[19][20] content publishing,[21] and the introduction of podcasts and video are other burgeoning trends.[22]

Social media has increased the speed of breaking news, creating greater time constraints on responses to current events.[23]

Increasingly, companies are utilizing social media channels, such as blogs and Microblogging. Some view two-way communications in social media in two categories: asymmetrical and symmetrical. In an asymmetrical public relations model an organization gets feedback from the public and uses it as a basis for attempting to persuade the public to change. A symmetrical public relations model means that the organization takes the interests of the public into careful consideration and public relations practitioners seek a balance between the interest of their organization and the interest of the public.[citation needed]

[edit] Salaries

In the United States, public relations professionals earn an average annual salary of $49,800 which compares with £40,000 for a practitioner with a similar job in the UK.[24] Top earners make around $89,220 annually, while entry-level public relations specialists earn around $28,080. Corporate, or in-house communications is generally more profitable, and communications executives can earn salaries in the mid six-figures, though this only applies to a fraction[need quotation to verify] of the sector’s workforce.[25]

The role of public relations professionals is changing because of the shift from traditional to online media. Many PR professionals are finding it necessary to learn new skills and to examine how social media can impact a brand’s reputation.[26]

[edit] Methods, tools, and tactics

Specific public relations disciplines include:

Within each discipline, typical activities include publicity events, speaking opportunities, press releases, newsletters, blogs, social media, press kits and outbound communication to members of the press. Video and audio news releases (VNRs and ANRs) are often produced and distributed to TV outlets in hopes they will be used as regular program content.

Building and managing relationships with those who influence an organization or individual’s audiences has a central role in doing public relations.[27] [28] After a public relations practitioner has been working in the field, they accumulate a list of relationships that become an asset, especially for those in media relations.

[edit] Audience targeting

A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience, and to tailor messages to appeal to each audience. Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders common to a public relations effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but complementary messages.

On the other hand stakeholders theory identifies people who have a stake in a given institution or issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if a charity commissions a public relations agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease, the charity and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who is likely to donate money.

[edit] Messaging

Messaging is the process of creating a consistent story around a product, person, company or service. Messaging aims to avoid having readers receive contradictory or confusing information that will instill doubt in their purchasing choice or other decisions that have an impact on the company. Brands aim to have the same problem statement, industry viewpoint or brand perception shared across sources and mediums.

[edit] Social media marketing

Digital marketing is the use of Internet tools and technologies such as search engines, Web 2.0 social bookmarking, new media relations, blogging and social media marketing. Interactive PR allows companies and organizations to disseminate information without relying solely on mainstream publications and communicate directly with the public, customers and prospects.

[edit] Other techniques

Litigation public relations is the management of the communication process during the course of any legal dispute or adjudicatory processing so as to affect the outcome or its impact on the client’s overall reputation (Haggerty, 2003).

[edit] Ethics

The field of public relations is generally highly un-regulated, but many professionals voluntarily adhere to the code of conduct of one or more professional bodies to avoid exposure for ethical violations.[29] The Chartered Institute of Public Relations, the Public Relations Society of America and The Institute of Public Relations are a few organizations that publish an ethical code. Still, Edelman‘s 2003 semi-annual trust survey found that only 20 percent of survey respondents from the public believed paid communicators within a company were credible.[14]

[edit] Spin

Spin has been interpreted historically to mean overt deceit meant to manipulate the public, but since the 1990s has shifted to describing a “polishing of the truth.”[30] Today spin refers to providing a certain interpretation of informant meant to sway public opinion.[31] Companies may use spin to create the appearance of the company or other events are going in a slightly different direction than they actually are.[30] Within the field of public relations, spin is seen as a derogatory term, interpreted by professionals as meaning blatant deceit and manipulation.[32][33] Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called “spin doctors.”

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called “non-denial denial,” phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemisms for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news.

[edit] Negative PR

Negative public relations, also called dark public relations (DPR), is a process of destroying the target’s reputation and/or corporate identity. The objective in DPR is to discredit someone else, who may pose a threat to the client’s business or be a political rival. DPR may rely on IT security, industrial espionage, social engineering and competitive intelligence. Common techniques include using dirty secrets from the target, producing misleading facts to fool a competitor.[34][35][36][37] Some claim that negative public relations may be highly moral and beneficial for the general public since threat of losing the reputation may be disciplining for companies, organizations and individuals. Apart from this, negative public relations helps to expose legitimate claims against one. [38]

[edit] Politics and civil society

In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy.[39] In public relations, lobby groups are created to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion, typically in a way that benefits the sponsoring organization.

When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base, it is known as a front group.[40] Front groups are a form of astroturfing, because they intend to sway the public or the government without disclosing their financial connection to corporate or political interests. They create a fake grass-roots movement by giving the appearance of a trusted organization that serves the public, when they actually serve their sponsors.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e.
  2. ^ Seitel, Fraser P. The Practice of Public Relations. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007), 10e.
  3. ^ Rubel, Gina F., Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers, Doylestown, PA: 1 ed. 2007, ISBN 978-0-9801719-0-7
  4. ^ Jensen Zhao. Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd. Ed. Retrieved from
  5. ^ PRSA’s Old Definition of Public Relations
  6. ^ Stuart Elliot (March 1, 2012). “Public Relations Defined, After an Energetic Public Discussion”. New York Times.
  7. ^ Grunig, James E. and Hunt, Todd. Managing Public Relations. (Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984), 6e. Public relations is what you do with what you know and what other think about what you say.
  8. ^ name=On the definition of public relations: a European view.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Amanda Forman (2001), Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, New York: Random House USA Inc; New Ed edition. ISBN 003757538340.
  11. ^ W. Joseph Campbell 1897 American journalism’s exceptional year – “The reference to “public relations” appears in the preface of The Yearbook of Railway Literature (Chicago: Railway Age, 1897).”
  12. ^ Interview in Adam Curtis, “Happiness Machines”, The Century of the Self, Part 1, BBC2, 29 April 2002.
  13. ^ pp. 260-261, “The Function of the Propagandist”, International Journal of Ethics, 38 (no. 3): pp. 258-268.
  14. ^ a b Natasha Tobin, (2005), “Can the professionalisation of the UK public relations industry make it more trustworthy?“, Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 9 Iss: 1 pp. 56 – 64
  15. ^ Paul Gillin (2008) Newspaper Death Watch. Retrieved August 29, 2008
  16. ^ Brian Caulfield (2007) “Bye-Bye, Business 2.0” Forbes. Retrieved August 29, 2008
  17. ^ Paul (2008) “8 Public Relations Trends to Watch” Retrieved August 29, 2008.
  18. ^ Erica Swallow, Mashable. “The Future of Public Relations and Social Media.” August 16, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  19. ^ Tad Clarke and Stefan Tornquist, MarketingSherpa. “MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Presentation 2007: PowerPoint, MP3 and Transcript.” Oct 31, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  20. ^ Barbara Rozgonyi, WiredPRworks. “Public Relations – a Promising SEO Trend.” NOVEMBER 6, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  21. ^ Lee Odden, MediaRelationsBlog. “Testing SEO & Social Media Readiness: 6 Questions.” August 25, 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  22. ^ PRSA. “12 Trends To Watch: 2012 Public Relations Forecast #PRin2012.” January 3, 2012 . Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  23. ^ Alan B. Bernstein and Cindy Rakowitz (2012). Emergency Public Relations: Crisis Management In a 3.0 World. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-4691-5954-6
  24. ^ [when?] [1]
  25. ^ “Public Relations Specialist Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Public Relations Specialists”.
  26. ^
  27. ^ David Phillips (2006) Towards relationship management: Public relations at the core of organizational development, Journal of Communication Management, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
  28. ^ Kamau, C. (2009) Strategising impression management in corporations: cultural knowledge as capital. In D. Harorimana (Ed) Cultural implications of knowledge sharing, management and transfer: identifying competitive advantage. Chapter 4. Information Science Reference. ISBN 978-1-60566-790-4
  29. ^ Marshall, Tim (2002). “Ethics – Who needs them?”. Journal of Communication Management 7 (2): 107–112. doi:10.1108/13632540310807313. ISSN 1363-254X.
  30. ^ a b Safire, William (1996) The Spinner Spun
  31. ^ The Free Dictionary
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ Wattenberg, Martin P. (Aug. 22, 1996). Negative Campaign Advertising: Demobilizer or Mobilizer. eScholarship Repository. UC Irvine, Department of Politics and Society. Retrieved on January 29, 2005
  35. ^ Bike, William S. (March 28, 2004). Campaign Guide: Negative Campaigning. City: San Diego. Retrieved on August 3, 2005.
  36. ^ Saletan, William (November 25, 1999). Three Cheers for Negative Campaigning. Slate. City: Washington. Retrieved on August 3, 2005.
  37. ^ Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate? Stephen Ansolabehere, Shanto Iyengar, Adam Simon, Nicholas Valentino, 1994, American Political Science Review, 88:829-838; Winning, But Losing, Ansolabehere and Iyenger, 1996
  38. ^ Ask a hitman, Hitman – Negative Public Relations Agency, Pvt., August 22, 2012.
  39. ^ Edward Bernays Propaganda (1928) p. 10
  40. ^ See Peter Viggo Jakobsen, Focus on the CNN Effect Misses the Point: The Real Media Impact on Conflict Management is Invisible and Indirect, Journal of Peace Research, vol.37, no.2. Institute of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (2000).

[edit] Further reading

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Public Relations, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.