Public relations is the production and presentation of factual, fair, and balanced news about a company, trade, profession, or organization.
The public is the ultimate “choice maker,” and public relations are the tactics used to deliver the news that is received as news.
Within the context of a business, public relations includes public affairs, external communications, internal communications, and internal communications.
Marketing and sales are still in the business of selling a product or service, and the business operations are still focused on the product and its marketing.
Advertising, marketing, and sales must all be efficient, cost-effective, and provide positive results.
These are still the most important functions within a business and the public can always tell a good story about how to make a product or service different, better, or easier to use. But selling is still marketing.
So, in terms of marketing, what is public relations?
There are many forms of public relations, so we will discuss some of the most popular in business today.
For simplicity, we will restrict our discussion to two-way communication between an entity (business or non-profit) and the public.
Public relations is when a person takes the time to engage the public in meaningful dialogue.
The mission of public relations is to create a relationship of mutual value by leveraging communication through the public.
That means engaging all media; both traditional media and new media platforms such as the internet and social media.
Public relations may involve a variety of formats, some formal and some informal.
An example of informal is to ask the public to provide input on a proposed new law, or by publicizing a food recall, allowing the public to see the need for improvement.
Some businesses or non-profits use the term “social” to describe public relations because the public is the “social” part.
These traditional forms of communication are still very useful and valuable.
The problem is they can’t provide for a two-way conversation. If an individual has a question, he/she needs a person or a group who will answer.
And if someone has a need, we need to know who to contact and have a callback.
The other problem is that the person being interviewed or interviewed cannot control the message the journalist is going to report.
Although not always true, the person or group being interviewed usually gets edited by the journalist to make the interview more newsworthy.
The results? In most cases, the journalist is going to write what the interviewee “tells” him or her.
And when a journalist refers to a comment as “yes,” that comment usually does not need to be given a yes or no response.
There are many forms of news, so let’s look at some of the more common forms
Traditional media. This could be the print press, radio, and television.
The reporter or anchor will typically ask the question, and then have the speaker repeat the answer.
This is the “prompt question” approach. This is acceptable but must be followed by clarification, additional information, or follow-up questions.
A few questions will then be asked, which the speaker will answer.
If he/she is in fact correct, they will explain the error or omission that was made. The questions will then be re-asked.
A great example of this approach can be seen in the recording of an interview with Edward Snowden, an ex-NSA contractor.
This is a scripted interview. The question is asked by the interviewer, and the answer is given by Snowden.
The interviewer provides the appropriate follow-up questions for clarification. It was the answer given by Snowden that created controversy.
Snowden was very clear in his statement that he didn’t want to harm the U.S. or the American people.
It appears the anchor decided to use the question as an opportunity to pose a question about whether he was a traitor, which required an answer.
The narrative being delivered was the “answer” that he wanted, not the real answer.
Reporters will then re-ask the question. If Snowden is accurate in his statement, he will provide the explanation he sought to make, correct the error and the question asked will be re-asked.
This includes the web, social media, blogs, talk shows, the news, talk radio, and podcasts.
The journalist will usually ask the speaker to answer several questions, using his/her name and title, but the content is usually given by the speaker.
An example of this would be a presenter on the NPR website, who would ask a panelist to explain the government’s domestic surveillance program.
The presenter might be called upon to add a brief comment, or perhaps an opinion. The presenter might then lead the audience in a discussion.
Although this is an informal method of delivering news, it doesn’t deliver the “truth.” This isn’t the traditional “press conference.”
This is someone sharing an opinion.
Podcasts are becoming more popular.
They’re available from iTunes and other outlets, and they can be listened to with headphones, or speakers in the background, as the podcast is being played.
This can be used to provide a one-on-one conversation in an informal setting, where the conversation is not scripted, but still delivered as a professional news reporter would do.
These are popular in the business, travel, lifestyle, and technology categories.