Community Relations: an understated public relations activity
Public relations, or PR, practitioners and members of the media have roles that are in many ways complementary. Both sides of these relationships have. The Relationship There is a definite relationship between community relations and public relations. It is important, however, to recognize their differences and to . Publics, stakeholders, constituencies, communities. If relationships are central to public relations, then it also follows that 'public' should mean.
As a well-known definition from long-established textbook puts it: Marketing understands that organisations depend on relationships with customers. No customers, no business. But public relations also considers non-market groups such as regulators, politicians, activists, investors, trades unions and employees collectively, citizens. Yet from the s onwards, the use of stakeholders has replaced that of publics. There are some critical voices, though. Stakeholder maps tend to depict a static relationship and risk assuming that all those within certain groups eg shareholders have the same interests and the same level of involvement in the organisation.
The focus is on organisation-public relationships, and this tends to assume that the relationship is as important to stakeholders as it is to the organisation. This is rarely the case. Millions of us are members of the National Trust, a conservation charity.
All will be happy to contribute to preserving beautiful places. Only some will volunteer their time and yet fewer will exercise their voting rights at annual general meetings. Despite paying for membership, this does not guarantee our loyalty. Those with a keen interest in heritage and conservation may well be members of other bodies that may feel themselves to be in competition with the National Trust for funds, for members and for attention.
Maps of stakeholder relationships tend to place the organisation at the centre, rather like the medieval Christian view of the universe revolving around the earth. Yet as my National Trust example shows, most of us do not have undivided attention or fixed loyalties. A more accurate view would present the organisation as one planet revolving around the sun, which is in turn just one star among many others in the galaxy. This is a very different model to the usual focus on organisation-public relationships.
Others extend this thinking and see public relations as community management. This sounds like a contemporary view, as community management is now assumed to mean social media management. By community they mean society, and they later argued: The organization then employs specific public relations techniques, such as press conferences or special events, to reach the intended audience.
Finally, in step five the organization receives feedback from its public. How have they reacted to the public relations campaign? Are there some unexpected developments? In the final step, the organization assesses the program and makes any necessary adjustments.
As a result, there are several specific areas of public relations. Product Public Relations Public relations and marketing work together closely when it comes to promoting a new or existing product or service.
Public relations plays an important role in new product introductions by creating awareness, differentiating the product from other similar products, and even changing consumer behavior. Public relations can help introduce new products through staging a variety of special events and handling sensitive situations. For example, when the Prince Matchabelli division of Chesebrough-Pond's USA introduced a new men's cologne, there were twenty-one other men's fragrances being introduced that year.
Similarly, when Coleco introduced its Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, public relations helped increase awareness through licensed tie-in products, trade show exhibits, press parties, and even window displays in Cartier jewelry stores. Public relations is often called on to give existing products and services a boost by creating or renewing visibility. For example, the California Raisins Advisory Board organized a national tour featuring live performances by the California Dancing Raisins to maintain interest in raisins during a summer-long advertising hiatus.
The tour generated national and local publicity through media events, advance publicity, trade promotions, and media interviews with performer Ray Charles.
Other public relations programs for existing products involve stimulating secondary demand—as when Campbell Soup Co. Public relations can interest the media in familiar products and services in a number of ways, including holding seminars for journalists, staging a special media day, and supplying the media with printed materials ranging from "backgrounders" in-depth news releases to booklets and brochures.
Changes in existing products offer additional public relations opportunities to focus consumers' attention. An effective public relations campaign can help to properly position a product and overcome negative perceptions on the part of the general public.
Employee Relations Employees are one of the more important audiences a company has, and an ongoing public relations program is necessary to maintain employee good will as well as to uphold the company's image and reputation among its employees.
The essence of a good employee relations program is keeping employees informed and providing them with channels of communication to upper levels of management. Bechtel Group, a privately held complex of operating companies, published an annual report for its employees to keep them informed about the company's operations. The company used surveys to determine what information employees considered useful. A range of other communication devices were used, including a monthly tabloid and magazine, a quarterly video magazine, local newsletters, bulletin boards, a call-in telephone service, and "brown bag" lunches where live presentations were made about the company.
Suggestion systems are another effective way to improve employee-management communications. Other public relations programs focusing on employees include training them as company public relations representatives; explaining benefits programs to them; offering them educational, volunteer, and citizenship opportunities; and staging special events such as picnics or open houses for them. Other programs can improve performance and increase employee pride and motivation.
Community Relations - benefits, Types of community relations programs
Public relations can also play a role in recruiting new employees; handling reorganizations, relocations, and mergers; and resolving labor disputes. Financial Relations Financial relations involves communicating not only with a company's stockholders, but also with the wider community of financial analysts and potential investors.
An effective investor relations plan can increase the value of a company's stock and make it easier to raise additional capital. In some cases special meetings with financial analysts are necessary to overcome adverse publicity, negative perceptions about a company, or investor indifference.
Such meetings may take the form of full-day briefings, formal presentations, or luncheon meetings. A tour of a company's facilities may help generate interest among the financial community. Mailings and ongoing communications can help a company achieve visibility among potential investors and financial analysts.
Annual reports and stockholder meetings are the two most important public relations tools for maintaining good investor relations. Some companies hold regional or quarterly meetings in addition to the usual annual meeting. Other companies reach more stockholders by moving the location of their annual meeting from city to city. Annual reports can be complemented by quarterly reports and dividend check inserts.
Companies that wish to provide additional communications with stockholders may send them a newsletter or company magazine. Personal letters to new stockholders and a quick response to inquiries insure an additional measure of good will. Community Relations A comprehensive, ongoing community relations program can help virtually any organization achieve visibility as a good community citizen and gain the good will of the community in which it operates.
Banks, utilities, radio and television stations, and major retailers are some of the types of organizations most likely to have ongoing programs that might include supporting urban renewal, performing arts programs, social and educational programs, children's programs, community organizations, and construction projects. On a more limited scale, small businesses may achieve community visibility by sponsoring local sports teams or other events.
Support may be financial or take the form of employee participation. Organizations have the opportunity to improve good will and demonstrate a commitment to their communities when they open new offices, expand facilities, and open new factories.
Publicity, Public and Community Relations
One company increased community awareness of its presence by converting a vacant building into a permanent meeting place. Another company built its new headquarters in an abandoned high school that it renovated. One of the more sensitive areas of community relations involves plant closings.
A well-planned public relations campaign, combined with appropriate actions, can alleviate the tensions that such closings cause. Some elements of such a campaign might include offering special programs to laid-off workers, informing employees directly about proposed closings, and controlling rumors through candid and direct communications to the community and employees.
Organizations conduct a variety of special programs to improve community relations, including providing employee volunteers to work on community projects, sponsoring educational and literacy programs, staging open houses and conducting plant tours, celebrating anniversaries, and mounting special exhibits. Organizations are recognized as good community citizens when they support programs that improve the quality of life in their community, including crime prevention, employment, environmental programs, clean-up and beautification, recycling, and restoration.
Crisis Communications Public relations practitioners become heavily involved in crisis communications whenever there is a major accident or natural disaster affecting an organization and its community. Other types of crises involve bankruptcy, product failures, and management wrongdoing. In some cases, crises call for an organization to become involved in helping potential victims; in other cases, the crisis may require rebuilding an organization's image. In any case, experts recommend that business owners prepare a plan in advance to deal with potential crises in an honest and forthright manner.
The main objective of such a plan is to provide accurate information quickly in order to reduce uncertainty. After the San Francisco earthquake offor example, the Bank of America utilized its public relations department to quickly establish communications with customers, the financial community, the media, and offices in 45 countries to assure them the bank was still operating.