There are often misconceptions when it comes to understanding what PR is, the true benefits, and why it is in fact important.
According to the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA), “Public relations is the distinctive management function that establishes and maintains mutual communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organisation and its publics.”
Despite the fact that there are so many classifications of PR (a quick internet search can produce at least 31 definitions in just a few seconds), there is a lack of knowledge around the discipline itself, as well as the role of the PR specialist.
PR professionals can attest to the fact that there is a misperception of PR – that it is the practice of “spinning the truth”, “mass messaging”, “message control” or simply getting a celebrity to pose on the cover of a magazine, endorsing some or other product.
In reality, public relations is about the communication between an organisation and all of its stakeholders whether they are employees, shareholders or the man in the street that will use the client’s brand or service.
It’s about building integrity. This is why public relations makes use of the media as a credible source of information – through which to talk to people. It’s a process that is strategically led, entailing a great deal of research and planning. It requires creative content generation, motivating interviews with relevant spokespeople and consistently engaging with your audiences through traditional or new media.
PR is not about churning out press releases and the ever notorious spin tactics in attempt to manage your image. The objective of PR is to form relationships with real people and create opportunities to change perceptions, not only by starting new dialogues but also by joining them. By producing the right content at the right time, you can change conversations, as well as affect attitudes.
With that being said, it takes time and effort to measure the success of a PR campaign – a factor which needs to be communicated to the client . There is no such thing as instant success, but rather effective PR strategies that will help build a brand’s image and solid reputation in the eyes of the public.
In the end, it’s the feedback a client receives from its various publics that will determine whether or not a PR campaign has been successful.
Lucinda Boddy is MD of Livewired PR.