It makes perfect sense to define PR here: ‘A deliberate, planned and sustained effort at creating and maintaining mutual lines of understanding between an organisation and its publics so that the former will elicit supportive behaviour from the latter”. The survival of every brand- personal and corporate- is incumbent upon its ability to engender supportive behaviour from its publics, and PR helps to achieve this by deploying strategic communication initiatives, not just churning out press releases to the media.
PR entails the employ of well-conceived communication strategies for engaging the publics and obtaining the desired actions. For the uninitiated, ‘publics’ in PR means specific groups of people whose activities have the potential to impact a brand- the government, regulators, employees, media, investors, suppliers, shareholders, professional unions, host community, customers, etc., depending on the nature of the brand. That’s why you hear terms like community relations, government relations, media relations (the most prominent), employee relations, investor relations, etc.
The PR specialist is saddled with the responsibility of managing the relationships between these sets of people and the organisation, leveraging effective engagement channels to gain their support and loyalty. The success of the organisation is decided by this art of managing relationships and maintaining lines of communication. This is the true value of PR. Viewed through this periscope, you can now understand why core PR practitioners would frown upon any import of PR suggesting only publicity creation.
I mentioned the concept of ‘supportive behaviour’ in a preceding paragraph. It’s a requisite for every company’s growth. When your host community has a friendly disposition towards your company, that’s a supportive behaviour. When your customers continue to buy your product, that’s a supportive behaviour. When your investors are willing to invest more, that’s a supportive behaviour. The PR practitioner’s job is to ensure that the company always gets this supportive behaviour.
Business owners expect PR to add to their revenue and justify its budget. PR does not shirk in this regard, as it ultimately adds to the bottom line. But let’s understand that PR isn’t advertising; neither is it marketing or direct selling. While advertising is loud and pronounced, PR is ‘silent’ and subtle. It’s also more believable because its contents fall under editorial category. PR makes the job of the sales executives easier by generating goodwill and favourable public perception for the brand. PR does the groundwork for other promotional activities to thrive. Hence, its results are long-term.
PR expert Godfrey Adejumoh, in his article ‘What is the Currency of PR Practitioners?’, writes: “The currency of influence by the PR practitioner is so critical that it plays a major role in aiding the go-to market strategy of the organisation, it inspires the business continuity plan and provides input into the business forecast in the short, medium and long term. These are no doubt key deciding factors for the sustainability of any organisation”. This further expands the relevance of PR in any corporate entity and espouses the not-so-noticeable aspect of the profession. Apart from news management and publicity, PR also involves research, trend analysis, employee communication, thought leadership, communication advisory, issues management, CSR management, etc. Each of these requires a bespoke strategy.
The main takeaway here is that PR is much more than what people perceive it to be. It’s a broad discipline which tremendously impacts the survival of a brand. PR practitioners have to demonstrate their true value beyond publicity stunts and correct the misconceptions about their art. As long as brand reputation remains key, PR will continue to play a valuable role in building and sustaining brands.
Stanley Olisa is a Media and Communication Consultant in Lagos. Email- firstname.lastname@example.org