It is viewed as a professional endeavor, public relations is most often defined as the management function that seeks to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization, commercial or non-commercial, and the audiences or “public” on which the success of these entities depends. This “public” may include any of several possible categories: customers, investors, employees, suppliers, legislators, competitors, government officials etc. Public relations blossomed as a professional endeavor in the 20th Century, most conspicuously in the United States, but its roots, both philosophical and pragmatic, can be traced throughout civilization. Working within the context of the prevailing public opinion, laws, politics and societal norms of the country in which they work, public relations practitioners develop programs and craft messages aimed at creating favorable support for the goals of the organizations they represent. Obtaining significant, positive news and feature coverage in the print and broadcast media is a key objective.
Unlike advertising or marketing, with which it is often confused, professional “Public Relations is more “soft sell” than “hard sell.” Owing to its complexity, it is occasionally viewed as “propaganda” or, in more current slang, “spin,” the intentional manipulation of public opinion without regard for what is accurate or true.
Public relations specialists handle organizational functions such as media, community, consumer, and governmental relations; political campaigns; interest-group representation; conflict mediation; or employee and investor relations. However, public relations are not only “telling the organization’s story.” Understanding the attitudes and concerns of consumers, employees, and various other groups also is a vital part of the job. To improve communications, public relations specialists establish and maintain cooperative relationships with representatives of community, consumer, employee, and public interest groups and with representatives from print and broadcast journalism. Informing the general public, interest groups, and stockholders of an organization’s policies, activities, and accomplishments is an important part of a public relations specialist’s job. The work also involves keeping management aware of public attitudes and concerns of the many groups and organizations with which they must deal.
Public relations specialists prepare press releases and contact people in the media who might print or broadcast their material. Many radio or television special reports, newspaper stories, and magazine articles start at the desks of public relations specialists. Sometimes the subject is an organization and its policies towards its employees or its role in the community. Often the subject is a public issue, such as health, energy, or the environment. Public relations specialists also arrange and conduct programs to keep up contact between organization representatives and the public. For example, they set up speaking engagements and often prepare speeches for company officials. These specialists represent employers at community projects; make film, slide, or other visual presentations at meetings and school assemblies; and plan conventions. In addition, they are responsible for preparing annual reports and writing proposals for various projects.
In government, public relations specialists—who may be called press secretaries, information officers, public affairs specialists, or communications specialists—keep the public informed about the activities of government agencies and officials. In large organizations, the key public relations executive, who often is a vice president, may develop overall plans and policies with other executives. In addition, public relations departments employ public relations specialists to write, research, prepare materials, maintain contacts, and respond to inquiries. People who handle publicity for an individual or who direct public relations for a small organization may deal with all aspects of the job. They contact people, plan and research, and prepare material for distribution. They also may handle advertising or sales promotion work to support marketing. Some are concentrated in large cities, where press services and other communications facilities are readily available and many businesses and trade associations have their headquarters
Public relations managers supervise public relations specialists. These managers direct publicity programs to a targeted public. They often specialize in a specific area, such as crisis management—or in a specific industry, such as healthcare. They use every available communication medium in their effort to maintain the support of the specific group upon whom their organization’s success depends, such as consumers, stockholders, or the general public.
For example, public relations managers may clarify or justify the firm’s point of view on health or environmental issues to community or special interest groups. PR managers also evaluate advertising and promotion programs for compatibility with public relations efforts and serve as the eyes and ears of top management. They observe social, economic, and political trends that might ultimately affect the firm and make recommendations to enhance the firm’s image based on those trends. Public relations managers may confer with labor relations managers to produce internal company communications—such as newsletters about employee-management relations—and with financial managers to produce company reports. They assist company executives in drafting speeches, arranging interviews, and maintaining other forms of public contact; overseas company archives; and respond to information requests. In addition, some handle special events such as sponsorship of races, parties introducing new products, or other activities the firm supports in order to gain public attention through the press without advertising directly. Creativity, initiative, good judgment, and the ability to express thoughts clearly and simply are essential. Decision-making, problem-solving, and research skills are also important. People who choose public relations as a career need an outgoing personality, self-confidence, an understanding of human psychology, and an enthusiasm for motivating people. They should be competitive, yet flexible, and able to function as part of a team. The objective of any firm is to market and sell its products or services profitably. Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers coordinate the market research, marketing strategy, sales, advertising, promotion, pricing, product development, and public relations activities. In India development of PR was a much slower process. Here public relations started in 1892 by the Tata’s. They specially stressed on internal PR — like, building an industrial township for employees, helping employees and their family in the educational and cultural field, etc. But, Indian Railways gave more importance to external public relations.
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