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28 April 2010
Strategic Public Relations
Strategic Public Relations is not necessarily about trying to shout more loudly than everyone else. Rather it is about targeting your messages specifically to your company’s interested parties.

A lot has happened since the late 19th century when Ivy Lee introduced the concept ‘Public Relations’ in his work for the powerful Rockefeller families and the multinational Standard Oil. Today Public Relations has evolved into one of the Communications trade’s largest disciplines.

Today, about a hundred years after the birth of the Public Relations discipline, neither the trainees in the PR agencies nor the researchers at the universities can come to an exact agreement on what demarcates Public Relations from its related communications disciplines marketing, corporate, corporate branding, public affairs, etc.

Strategic relations care
An approximate definition of Public Relations might be strategic relations care; handling your relations with your most important interested parties, who are to make it possible for the company to meet its goals. Broadly this might be ‘relations with the public’ or more narrowly ‘relations to groups with shared interests’.

It is not uncommon to meet the narrow perception of Public Relations as being simply free publicity. But although promoting sales messages in the media is still high on the agenda, Public Relations is also very much about image and long term attitude adjustment of a company’s interested parties, for example by telling the company’s positive stories.

Marketing and PR are getting closer
In the past few years we have seen an approximation of marketing and Public Relations, not least of all brought on by the great focus in the ‘90s on Corporate Branding and image. But whereas marketing has traditionally focused on customers, the target group for Public Relations is, as a starting point, all of a company’s interested parties. It is about nurturing the company’s reputation with everyone – from customers, the public and consumers to the press, partners and the authorities.

As they say in the trade association for Danish Public Relations agencies:
”The purpose of Public Relations is to contribute to creating, recreating or maintaining a company’s reputation. Public Relations influences opinions and regulates media images to create a mutual and positive understanding between a company and the world around it.”

”Public Relations work must be based on integrity and honesty, and there must be a direct link between words and actions, guaranteeing a company’s credibility.”

As the trade association’s definition makes clear, it is not sufficient in a modern Public Relations approach simply to attempt to communicate a specific image of one’s company. The company must also act according to the public interest. Therefore a high degree of credibility in communication is an important prerequisite when a company or organization meets the public in various arenas.

Monologue to dialogue
Whereas Public Relations began as external mass communication focussed on one-way communication and persuasion, many companies now see the necessity of actual two-way communication with their interested parties. The internet and many new social media certainly haven’t made the need for an ongoing dialogue any smaller.

As businesses and organisations become larger and more specialised, a lot of them lose their former connection with the local community and it becomes harder to communicate directly with interested parties, customers and markets. This increases the importance of companies being able to meet customers and consumers where they are.

At the same time theorists and practicians alike have just about given up on the old models of planned behaviour for communication. Both marketing and PR has shifted from a naïve perception of consumers as defenceless, passive recipients of information to a perception of stakeholders as independent opinion-forming creators and distributers of information, who can be hugely important for a company’s reputation.


Public Relations

Broadly speaking, public relations is about your relations with the world around you and your stakeholders. Related can maintain and strengthen your relations to current and future customers through a goal-directed effort.

This might be PR events at product launches, press trips and study trips or through valuable speaking opportunities at fairs or relevant events.

More specifically PR is also very much about traditional product promotion through product PR that ensures that your products are mentioned in the right articles.


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