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  PUBLIC RELATIONS (PR) IN THE MARKETING MIX  
   
 

PR is not well treated in mainstream marketing communications literature, though this may be starting to change, and advertising based sources tend to under emphasise it.

Public relations is a complex discipline, which is typically asked to spread a rather small budget over a wide range of possible fields of activity, from corporate and financial affairs via product support to crisis management.

Given its complexity, it is no surprise that there is a wide variety of structural arrangements used by large corporations to handle their PR, and in many cases they use different PR agencies to handle different elements in the PR mix. This is encouraged by the growing tendency for PR agencies to specialise (1).

PR is the positive communication of a company or brand's message to all its target audiences be they staff, customers, the general public, the trade or government bodies.

PR ought to be the discipline that controls the company's communication, simply because it is so all embracing: it lies at the heart of the entire management of the company's reputation.

There are efforts to distinguish PR and 'Marketing Public Relations' (by which it means product or brand support), and to create a division between the two.

More significant seems to be the distinction made by Destiny between:

» PR as strategic communication, at a high level within the    company, and;

» PR as largely practiced: aimed at achieving column inches    in the technical journals or favourable comment in the    financial press.

The effective company need to ensure PR is embedded in its approach to its environment, under the control of the CEO, and with the main elements of the company's stance implicit in everything the company does.

With growing interest in integrated marketing communications, the relationship of PR management to that of other forms of communication becomes more important.

PLANNING PR

  PR has to be based on a clear understanding and definition of the objectives. Audiences need to be defined, and specific objectives set for each audience. Ideally, these should be couched in terms of changes in opinion about the company; but they should at the very least include quantifiable measures of the extent to which the audience can be reached with favourable material. The PR Pocket Book (28) suggests planning on the 'GAME' format:

» Goals specific, quantified objectives.

» Audiences/messages defined target groups, and defined    messages for each.

» Methods selection of the appropriate means to reach each    audience effectively.

» Evaluation measurement of results.

Without the specific setting of objectives, it is impossible to begin to evaluate the success of the PR activity.

A key problem, of course, is that PR rarely happens in isolation from other communications and the effect of a substantial advertising budget can be to swamp evidence of PR effects.

Conversely, PR can be used to amplify the effects of a limited ad budget.

PR PROGRAMMES

Classically, PR activity centres around media relations, with the specific aim of getting (favourable) coverage of the company and its activities in newspapers or on broadcast media. Stories may be based on specially commissioned market research; on incidents and events affecting employees or customers; on the launch of and response to a new advertising campaign; on local community initiatives, and so on.

A key part of this, of course, is a detailed understanding of the relevant media, and how they may be influenced. Careful monitoring of the media enables the PR agency to keep tabs on which publications and journalists are likely to be receptive or hostile.

Broadcast media offer more diverse possibilities: apart from being prepared to provide spokespeople to appear on programmes, it is often possible to create short programmes that may be used in their entirety by suitable stations.

The internet has created its own range of opportunities and
 
 
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