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Uncovering the Many Components of Public Relations

Public relations is more than just pitching stories to the media or mailing out press releases. The PR umbrella covers a number of related activities, all of which are concerned with communicating specific messages to specific target audiences. If you're the PR person at ABC Enterprises, you're responsible for managing communications between your company and your public.

The label public relations typically encompasses the following:

  • Research: You have to thoroughly understand not only your company but also your customers and potential customers. What do you offer that is unique or special? What are customers looking for? And how well do you fill those needs? Market research and an internal company audit are the starting points of successful PR campaigns.
  • Strategic planning: Define each target audience, your marketing objectives for that group, and the messages you must communicate in support of those marketing objectives.
  • Publicity: For most small businesses, the central public relations activity is publicity — getting visibility for your products, the company, and the owners in print and broadcast media. You can think of publicity as management and placement of information in the media for the purpose of protecting and enhancing a brand or reputation. Simply put, this means getting ink and airtime.
  • Community relations: You probably see examples every day. Here's one that's been repeated in several different locations: Local citizens protest a big retail chain that wants to build a store in their town, because the new construction would wipe out a popular wooded area. That chain has a community relations problem in that town, and the PR professional's job is to find a favorable solution that will get the store built while preserving the store's goodwill with the citizens.
  • Government relations: Community relations often involves relations with the local government, and PR people are often called upon to help companies improve their relationships with local, state, federal, and even foreign governments.
  • Internal relations: Employees are the internal audience. When the unemployment rate is low, good employees are hard to find, and a good public relations program job can help improve loyalty and retain more of them.
  • Investor relations: With the incredible stock market volatility of 2000, or more recently, the events of September 11, 2001, and the hurricanes in 2005, citizens have seen how emotion and public perception have the power to send stock prices soaring or plummeting. Investor relations is the aspect of PR that communicates the company story to stock analysts and other financial professionals.
  • Stakeholder relations: A stakeholder is anyone or any organization that holds a stake in how well your company performs. A key vendor is a stakeholder; rumors that you are financially shaky may cause them to restrict your credit terms. Other key stakeholders can include top consultants, board members, your bank, suppliers, sales representatives, distributors, and industry gurus.
  • Charitable causes: When a company gives to charity, it wants to help the cause, but it also wants to be recognized for its contribution. PR specialists can help you get maximum publicity and goodwill from the time, effort, and funds you donate.
  • Communications training: In large corporations, PR specialists may spend a lot of time coaching senior executives in dealing with the media and other communications skills. The specialists may also advise the executives on strategy for day-to-day PR as well as PR crises.
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