Public relations is the part of the marketing mix designed to build or maintain a positive organizational image among an organization's stakeholders. Public relations is a slow process that gradually changes the impressions, attitudes, and opinions of the various publics over time. Although public relations sometimes can be used to "spin" negative information into a more favorable light, it cannot build a positive reputation for an organization when it is not deserved. Similarly, public relations cannot smother deserved criticisms or malpractice. There are a number of tools for promulgating the organization's message through public relations. In addition to media relations, public relations activities may include face-to-face techniques, research, the use of the Internet, various in-house publications, and the design and protection of the corporate logo and other branding.
According to conventional wisdom, if one should "build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." The reality, however, is more complex. Whether or not one's "mousetrap" is truly better will depend on a number of factors, including what kind of mousetrap customers want or need and how good the mousetraps of the competition are. Pricing, too, will come into play. The potential customer must decide how much "better" is worth. If the benefit achieved from using the better mousetrap is not worth the price, most customers will not purchase it. However, even if the mousetrap is truly better, needed by the customer, unparalleled by the competition, and gives value for its price, customers still will not purchase the new mousetrap if they do not know about it. For this reason, businesses carry out various marketing activities ranging from word-of-mouth to elaborate marketing campaigns. The marketing function creates, communicates, and delivers value to customers and manages customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.
When thinking about marketing, many people think first about various techniques that directly advertise the organization's goods and services. These include advertising media including print, television, and radio advertisements, billboards and other advertising signage, Internet advertisements, sales promotions, and direct marketing. In addition, another vital part of the marketing effort comprises public relations. This is the process of creating and managing a public image or reputation with outside agencies and groups. In business, the public relations function is responsible for developing positive messages about the organization and reducing the impact of negative events and information on the organization's reputation. The public relations function focuses efforts on various internal and external stakeholders, including stockholders, employees, the government, public interest groups, and society as a whole. It is the function of public relations to monitor its various constituencies and provide positive information to reinforce its integrated marketing communications strategy and advertising direction as well as to react quickly to counteract a shift in the desired position of any of its publics.
The Marketing Mix
As shown in Figure 1[CCL1], each of the various elements in the marketing mix is designed to move prospective customers closer to a sale. At first, these activities are targeted toward making the customer aware of the organization and its products or services. Publicity and advertising in particular are effective in achieving this goal. Once the prospective customer is made aware of the organization and what it has to offer, marketing efforts next focus on generating interest in the customer for purchasing the organization's goods or services. Publicity and advertising, again, tend to be particularly successful in generating interest. However, as shown in Figure 1, personal selling efforts tend to become increasingly successful as the customer acquires more information about the organization and what it has to offer. These activities also help prospective customers understand the nature and value of the organization's products or services and can help promote the conviction that the product or service being offered is something that is appropriate for the customer. Once this has been accomplished, marketing efforts attempt to turn this conviction that the product or service is appropriate or needed into a desire to purchase it. At this point, sales promotions can also be effectively used in making a prospective customer a current customer.
In addition to the more direct elements of the marketing effort -- publicity, advertising, personal selling, and sales promotion -- there is also the public relations function. As shown in the figure, public relations efforts can be effective throughout the process of turning prospective customers into current customers by helping them better understand the organization (or at least the image that the organization wishes to portray).
The marketing mix is the combination of product, price, place, and promotion that is used to get a product into the hands of the consumer. One of the primary tasks of marketing is to optimize the mix to best position the product for success in the marketplace. The public relations function of the organization can positively contribute throughout the entire marketing program. During new product development, public relations can contribute by monitoring competitor activity and helping to determine the nature of the marketing opportunity. The public relations function can also determine the public relations objectives and strategy. For example, the type of development (whether or not it is an innovation, a reintroduction of a previous product, an extension of the organization's current line, a reappraisal or revitalization of a current product, or a managed decline or withdrawal of a product) will influence whether stakeholders need to be educated about the product, service, or brand, or reassured (e.g., if a product is going off the market); public relations actions need to be taken to support the sales strategy; or if the strategy requires a reassessment. Marketing research can also be used to formulate reports or news stories that can be used in public relations efforts.
In addition to activities directly related to marketing a product or service, public relations has many functions that can help the organization in meeting its goals and objectives. Primarily, public relations is used to build or maintain a positive image among the various stakeholders. For example, public relations can be used to help employees feel good about the organization that they are working in or be used as a selling point to attract and acquire high quality new employees. Public relations can also be used to raise the awareness of various stakeholders or publics about the organization or its products or services, and educate them in an attempt to build a positive and attractive image. It can also help maintain investor confidence or attract new investors and raise financing. In addition, public relations can help launch new products or services. Public relations efforts can also be used to manage issues that might otherwise negatively affect the organization or its reputation and help...
(The entire section is 3176 words.)