Art of Public Relations and Reputation Management

Public Relations is a very generic term covering a whole area of marketing, communication, profile raising and management strategy. It is all about how an organisation is seen by the outside world, the message it sends and the public's perception of its service or product.

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA): "Public Relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics".

The means through which important information is conveyed are various, and often depend heavily upon the nature of the target audience. For instance a company communicating directly with its workforce would be unlikely to choose a public medium such as a newspaper advertisement through which to pass its information on, whilst news of a new product intending to achieve mass recognition would not be usefully served by its inclusion as a footnote in the corporate newsletter.

Edward Bernays, acknowledged by many to be the founder of modern PR, said it was "a management function which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organisation...followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance".

The key to Bernays' analysis lies in a clear understanding of the role of management in identifying public attitudes and using them as a means through which to inform company policy, thereby responding to a need as opposed to having to create one.

Once one masters this principle and applies it as a benchmark around which a company's strategy is built, it is simply a question of taking advantage of the diverse range of media available for spreading the company message to the best effect.

Developing an organisation's PR portfolio requires an understanding of all that is effective in today's world for communicating with the intended audience. This takes us well beyond mundane, conventional advertising and into the realm of web development, search engine optimisation (SEO) and of course social media. It means establishing a presence in each and every area of activity and of developing that presence around a unitary corporate message that is short and punchy but which at the same time is able to offer a subliminal picture of the product itself.

In effect what we are describing is a complete marketing solution, an integrated PR strategy for information and reputation management.

PR then is about much more than sending out good news to as wide an audience as we are able. It is just as much about managing the message so that the public perception of a product or service is the perception you wish it to have.

Mark Richards is a professional writer working for The Middle Man, a business promotion service using its experience and expert knowledge of marketing strategy to generate important new business for its clients at a surprisingly low cost.

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