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It has been established in the first paper that public relations plays a primary role in shaping debate in the public sphere. The Werribee Residents Against Toxic Dump (WRATD), for example, upon campaigning against Kennett state government and CSR for planning to install “waste management” precinct in West Road, achieved victory by hammering the message across to the public and, later on, to the court. Public relations, it turns out, plays a great deal in its campaign why the message, instead of being waylaid and muddled, as usually the case of most debates and campaigns being stretched out through time, directly and succinctly hit the message. Group of Alleviate Smoking Pollution (GASP), on the other hand, might have altogether taken a different approach of pushing its agenda against the big-time cigarette company Phillip Morris, but all the same used public relations to achieve its goal—that is, tobacco companies have been forced by court orders to disclose nearly seven internal documents, including memorandum and draft documents never intended for public scrutiny.
According to Harold Burson, a chairman of Burson-Marsteller public relations firm, the principal activities of a public relations cover two classes: strategic and implementing (Seitel 2001). Strategic in a sense that for a campaign to successfully carry out its objective it has to painfully consider many factors - among them, the materials, the time, and the place scenario. WRATD had the element of time considering that the campaign started to simmer just the time CSR plans to install a potentially hazardous “waste management” precinct. And implementing in a sense that after considering the strategies to carry out the campaign, it's equally important on how the methods and strategies are to be implemented. WRATD's plan of having a picket charter to draw the line of responsible campaign and protest helped prevent waylaid actions and at the same time promote a good impression to the public. It's not enough, after all, for a plan to be known. What's more important is how the plan is executed.
Behind a good PR work is PR personnel themselves. They're the ones who brainstorm and necessarily carry out the PR goals. They are the ones who weigh down options, research facts to be used in their respective goals, and foresee situations that directly influence the campaign they are proposing. They are the ones who listen for suggestions beneficial for the campaign and instruct all the people comprising of the entity on what to do with regard to the goals and objective of the PR. PR personnel can be the leaders or managers in different organizations, especially those small-scale ones—where multitasking is easily carried out. However, for big firms, separate individuals are hired out to do the special job of public relations. The immense scale of territory they are going to handle are one of the few reasons why separate individuals, if not department, are to be given the special task of public relations.
In this paper, two kinds of PR personnel were interviewed about the special functions of public relations in regard to shaping debate in public sphere. The two personnel came from two different fields—corporate and nonstock, nonprofit organizations.
In the following pages, specific points are to be delved into about the necessity of PR in advancing the campaign of organizations—as far as shaping public opinion, perception, and arguments are concerned.
PR in Corporate Organizations
As defined by World Assembly of Public Relations Associations, held in Mexico City in August 1978, public relations is “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” (Zhao 1999). In corporate world, where competition is heavily dramatized, a corporate public relation plays a pivotal role. Simply put, “organizations place corporate advertisements in order to establish, develop, enhance, and/or change the corporate image of an organization” (Harrison 2000).
According to Michael Sanders, who works as a PR associate of Eric White and Associates, a PR consultancy firm based in Melbourne, Australia, says that “companies invest so much money on PR not just on the their products but as well as to the whole organizations.” He further said that by investing money on making their product as well the whole company look good to the consumers will shape opinions on reputation. “When your products have good reputations, people will draw to them like moth to lamp.”
Equally important as well, in corporate PR, is maintaining your product's reputation. When GASP criticized Phillip Morris's products, the company's main source of income is threatened. The PR group of the cigarette company, as previously discussed in the first paper, made counterarguments with GASP, so just to save the company's product's reputation.
“One way for the company to establish good reputation on the public's perception is to invest on corporate-responsible activities,” says Sanders. “Corporate social responsibility is “concerned with treating the stakeholders of the firm ethically or in responsible manner. ‘Ethically or responsible' means treating stakeholders in a manner deemed acceptable in civilized societies. (Hopkins 2007).
“You'd observe that a certain highly pollution-emitting company holds a clean and green activities with the government or other nongovernment sectors,” shares Sanders. “This is a face-saving method and, in a way, PR at its work.”
True enough, one can only observes in TV, radio, and Internet the so many companies involving in corporate social responsibility. You'd later on learn that a chemical-producing companies holds charities or sponsors scholarship for needy children. Or you'd later on realize that a pharmaceutical companies are in tie-up relationship with religious sects in building hundreds of homes for the homeless.
“You'd think that two opposing forces in nature coexist. Although people would find this is as hypocritical ways of the corporate organizations, but these organizations would lament that these are the only few things they can give back to the public, which they owe their successes,” Sanders says.
Going back to corporate PR discussion. Truly, with this information, public relations is not just a method on how to establish reputation for the corporate organizations. PR, too, helps maintain the reputation, which holds insofar as the success of the companies' respective corporate competitions.
PR in Nonstock, Nonprofit Organizations
Public relations in nonstock, nonprofit organizations has similar works with that of corporate PR, although the motivating factor is quite different. Where in corporate organizations, PR is used to boost and maintain reputation to rake in profit, in nonprofit organizations—examples of these are activist groups, pro bono law firms, etc.—PR is used to drive home the message across to the public to gain sympathy and understanding.
“Profit has little to do in public relations in nonprofit institutions,” shares Alcott Baker, a PR assistant of Clean Up Australia (CUA), a nonprofit Australian environmental conservation organization founded by Ian Keiernan. “In our case, we cannot divorce on using PR to rake in money; money for us is used to implement our programs, push our dreams to reality,” Baker says. “But the primary function of PR for our organization is really to make the public aware of our cause.”
As was the case of WRATD, public relations is used to hammer the point to the public that the government and CSR's plan to install a precinct is potentially dangerous to the environment.
“Sometimes working on PR in a nonstock, nonprofit organization is daunting. It's hard to get the public sympathy, much more move them to join us,” laments Baker. And this is true inasmuch to activist organizations where public's eye is never kind, as history would show. Activist groups often are labeled to be extreme, warmongering, and not pleasant.
But with good and proper handling of PR, this age-old fascism can be overcome. This was shown by the WRATD. In their intense campaign against the group, they have acquired a reputation—and maintained this—by establishing that the group meant business and that it didn't muddle its affairs with other ideologies. By having a picket charter—a charter where all the group members and other concerned entities signed an agreement of the following conditions: no alcohol, illegal substances or weapons on the site, children under the age of 15 to be the sole responsibility of their parents or legal guardians, no threatening or violent behavior, among other things (Demetrious 2002).
Asked about the CUA's PR method, Baker has this to share: “For our group, we want to tie up with other organizations and personalities to make known our message. We want to drive home our point in a very creative way possible. The public is sometimes basked in so much information that our voices are not heard enough. So make our message stand out, it takes a great deal of creativity on our part.”
Whether corporate or nonstock, nonprofit organizations, public relations appears to be a fundamental method in achieving the very reason why organizations exist. First, in corporate settings, public relations help in providing a solid reputation that would pave the way for profits. When consumers trust your product, it very well stood to reason that they will patronize it. By consumers patronizing your products, of course, will spell profit on the long run. And not only this, organizations of already-solid reputations also seek PR personnel to maintain, if not boost more, its products reputation. Engaging in activities that promote corporate social responsibilities up the ante of the organizations, among other endeavors, proved to cement reputation—this will help them to appear not only as a profit-oriented organization but an institution that has genuine concern to the public they are purportedly serving.
In nonstock, nonprofit organizations, different playing field is used, but public relations still holds a very important role. In the case of WRATD, by sufficiently maintaining its reputation as a legitimate group with very legitimate concerns score big points to the public and, ultimately, to the court. This paved the way for their victory. Also, public relations proves to be a vast system of methods in getting across the message to the people. As was the CUA's case, they used creative ways in hammering their point to the public and to other concerned organizations that will help them finance their activities as well as mobilized people more to be very environmentally friendly. Truly, public relations has come a long way of not just making an organization appears to look good in the public eye, but on stirring so much more—mobilizing people's opinion to consider a not-so-common ideas.
Seitel, Fraser. 2001. The practice of public relations. Prenctice Hall, Inc.
Zhao, J. (ed.) 1999. Encyclopedia of Business, viewed 4 May 2010 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_gx5209/is_1999/ai_n19125848/.
Harrison, Shirley. 2000. Public relations: an introduction. Thomson Learning. Padstow, Cornwall.
Hopkins, Michael. 2007. Corporate social responsibility & international development: is business the solution? Earthscan, High Street, London, UK.
Demetrious, K. 2002. “People, power and public relations.” Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, vol. 3, no 2, pp. 109-120, University of Canberra, Canberra.
This letter is an invitation for you to participate in our study we are conducting as part of our master's curriculum in regard to public relations. Your participation will only be restricted to interview process.
The study will focus on the importance of public relations on corporate and/or nonprofit organizations. Your participation will help shed light and give options to the study we are conducting.
Rest assured the information that will be gathered will be used for academic purposes only. We hope this letter will merit a positive response.
- How did the public relations job improve the growth in your clients?
- What is an example of PR activities that a company should be engaged in?
- What are the relative setbacks in doing a PR job to a company?
- What are the things that a PR associate should be prepared for in making strategies?
- A lot. The companies nowadays invest so much money on PR not just on the their products but as well as to the whole organizations because they know by so doing would improve their sales growth. When there's PR, it will improve the reputation of their products. When your products have good reputations, people will draw to them like moth to lamp.
- One way for the company to establish good reputation on the public's perception is to invest on corporate-responsible activities. You'd observe that a certain highly pollution-emitting company holds a clean and green activities with the government or other nongovernment sectors. This is a face-saving method, yes, and, in a way, PR at its work. You'd think that two opposing forces in nature coexist. Although people would find this is as hypocritical ways of the corporate organizations, but these organizations would lament that these are the only few things they can give back to the public, which they owe their successes.
- When the company refuses to share to us all the necessary information for us to rally their products. Trust is one thing that we need for us to be able to confidently make a strategy of making their products look good in the public.
- The PR associate should be prepared for the necessary materials he or she needs to market the company's product. Also, he or she needs to have a great deal of creativity and stress-level tolerance.
- How did the public relations job improve the growth in your organization?
- What is an example of PR activities that your organization should be engaged in?
- What are the relative setbacks in doing a PR job to your organization?
- What are the things that a PR associate should be prepared for in making strategies?
- Profit has little to do in public relations in nonprofit institutions, but the primary function of PR for our organization is really to make the public aware of our cause. So far, PR has made a good deal to that.
- Sometimes working on PR in a nonstock, nonprofit organization is daunting. It's hard to get the public sympathy, much more move them to join us. So we tie up with government and nongovernment organizations who share our vision to achieve our goal. And that in itself is PR. We write letters to them, sharing our vision and mission. Also, we conduct activities like concert-for-a-cause.
- A PR staff should be, first and foremost, who believe in our vision and mission. Without this, I don't think he or she can last long doing the job. Next, he or she should be open to all possibilities—that is, he or she should not stop exploring ways and means to further our cause as a group. Next, he or she should be creative.