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Sunday, May 18, 2008
India PR: How Public Relations can help a business organization?

“A well planned and executed Public Relation campaign can be the most powerful and effective of all communication tools.” As says the words of Simon Sayce.

The modern day Public Relations is not just a tool of communication but is a process that involves many subtle and far-reaching aspects. It has an inclusion of research and analysis, policy formation, programming, communication and feedback that an organization tends to attain from its numerous and varied publics. The concept of Public Relations can be traced back in the 1830; ever since then there have been various bodies that defined Public Relations accordingly, variedly and differently. The definitions changed with the change in the arena, with the evolution in the process and the expansion in the system. But, one such definition that can be termed appropriate to a certain extent is that of the British Institute of Public Opinion, which says-
“Public Relation is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.”

Thus we see that Public Relations involve the cultivation of favorable relations for different organizations and products with its key PUBLICS through the use of a variety of communication channels. Traditionally, this meant public relations professionals would work with members of the news media to build a favorable image by publicizing the organization or product through stories in print and broadcast media. But today the role of public relations is much broader and includes:
· building awareness and a favorable image for a company or client within stories and articles found in relevant media outlets
· closely monitoring numerous media channels for public comment about a company and its products
· managing crises that threatens company or product image
· building goodwill among an organization’s target market through community, philanthropic and special programs and events.


I would thus like to explain here that while planning any Public Relations activity we must understand its objectives first and that too in a broader way. Like any other aspect of marketing promotion, public relations could be used to address several broad objectives including:
· Building Product Awareness – When introducing a new product or relaunching an existing product, we can use a PR element that generates consumer attention and awareness through media placements and special events.
· Creating Interest – A PR placement in any form can help entice a targeted audience to try the product. For example,when a company is about to come up with their IPO, a special financial initiative or information may be promoted with PR through promotional releases sent to the financial media or the investor community will help organization in image and confidence building among the financial community.
· Providing Information – PR can be used to provide customers with more in depth information about products and services. Through articles, collateral materials, newsletters and websites, PR delivers information to customers that can help them gain understanding of the product.
· Stimulating Demand – A positive article in a newspaper, on a TV news show or mentioned on the Internet, often results in a discernable increase in product sales.
· Reinforcing the Brand – In many companies the public relations function is also involved with brand reinforcement by maintaining positive relationships with key audiences, and thereby aiding in building a strong image. Today it is even more important for companies and brands to build a good image. A strong image helps the company build its business and it can help the company in times of crises as well.
· Better Relations – Communication improves employee and management relations by keeping both in contact with each other.
· To Discourage Misinformation – One of the most important function of communication is to communicate relevant information and in the process to avoid distortions in message, and discouraging the spread of misinformation, rumors and gossips which can harm the image of the organization.


Public Relations Tools
Marketers should be aware of the tools used in the public relations function. While some marketers may prefer to handle their own PR tasks, many others will seek the assistance of outside PR professionals rather than attempt to handle these activities themselves. Skilled PR professionals offer many advantages for marketers with their two most important being: 1) their ability to understand and unearth good stories about a company and its product, and 2) their knowledge of the media market may place them in a better position to match stories to the news angles media reporters look for.
Whether handling PR internally or hiring professionals, marketers should be familiar with the tools available for public relations: Before choosing among the various tools marketers should begin by identifying their key targeted audiences (e.g., target markets) and key messages they wish to send. These should align with the messages and audiences identified for the product being promoted or corporate goals for non-specific product promotions, such as corporate image promotions.
The key messages are used in the development of public relations materials and supporting view over time and across numerous PR methods that reinforce product positioning (i.e., customer's perceptions) and reach the desired target audience.
The key tools available for PR include:
1) Media Relations
· Press Conference
· Press Visits
· Press Releases
· One on One Interactions

2) Special Events
3) News Letters
4) Speaking Engagements
5) Sponsorships
6) Employee Relations
7) Community Relations and
8) Philanthropy
Let us now have a look upon how these tools work towards improving the image of a business organization.

Media Relations
Media Relations is one of the most important aspects of PR, it is that area which is the most sensitive as well as quite difficult to handle, but a larger chunk of PR work greatly depends upon the relation that a PR personnel shares with that of media personalities. As I already said that it is a difficult part so I would like to share a couple of points that we need to keep in mind in order to build good media relations.

- You must know the working style of media to get an insight of the readership profile and editorial policy and style.
- You need to help the journalist to know you better.
- You must maintain an information bank so that if anyone needs any kind of contact, can easily turn towards you.
- You need to help the journalists in every possible way so that they can also help you. You need to be accessible to them, so that they can contact you any time they wish to.
- Make them friends when you don't need them so that you don't seem to be selfish.
- Give them news of wide public interest, conveniently packaged and delivered in good time.
- Being a PR professional it is your responsibility to train your Bosses on how to tackle media.
- Don't beg to get a story published or killed.
- You must not be in the habit of going to the Editor for every little work you have.., even if you know him well.
There are various other tools that Media Relations comprises of and being a part of a business organization, the PR professional has to attend to all these quite often. Some of the tools are:
1. Press Conferences- where a large number of Media people are invited and the top management announces some important development about the organization.
2. Press Visits or Tours- where the media is invited to visit the premises of the organization or their key venues.
3. Press Releases- An organization needs to keep the media aware of every small day to day development within it and this is done in the form of a Press Release. This keeps the media updated about the organization.
4. Interactions- other than all the above mentioned tools, the organization also arranges some interactions that has to be taken place in between a journalist and the top management of the organization.


Special Events
It is the duty of the PR personnel to organize special events on behalf of the organization and this is done to reach a specific narrow target audience and the related media. These events can be anything from the sophisticated Strawberry parties or the elegant dinners to the road shows or the agricultural welfare programmes.


Newsletters
It is a tool that helps the organization keep in touch and in regular contact with their relative investors, target audiences, employees, customers etc. This could be in either soft format or a hard copy. Hard copy has its own advantages as it could be used to keep at the receptions of the offices of the above mentioned target group, so that it reaches more number of people. Soft copy is easy to deliver and cost effective but, as a Communication Advisor, I feel it is advisable to have both the format of Newsletters for different categories of audiences. The newsletters can also be uploaded on the websites or the blogs of the organization so that it can reach to the maximum possible people.


Speaking Engagements
Speaking before industry conventions, trade association meetings, and other groups provides an opportunity for company experts to demonstrate their expertise to potential clients/customers. Generally these opportunities are not explicitly for company or product promotion; rather they are a chance to talk on a topic of interest to potential customers and serve to highlight the speaker’s expertise in a field. The right speaking engagement puts the company in front of a good target audience and offers networking opportunities for generating customer leads.


Sponsorships
Companies and brands can use sponsorships to help build goodwill and brand recognition by associating with an event or group. Organization’s can examine sponsorship opportunities to find those that reach target groups, fit within a specified budget and provide sponsorship benefits that suit the marketer’s objectives. There are numerous local, regional, national and international sponsorship opportunities ranging from a local art center or theatre to the Olympics. Most organizations seeking company sponsors provide information on the variety of sponsorship levels which include data on event audience, exposure opportunities, which can include signage, T-shirts, public announcements and numerous other opportunities, receptions and much more. Marketers can use this information to help match sponsorship opportunities with the company’s objectives

Employee Communications
For many companies communicating regularly with employees is important in keeping employees informed of corporate programs, sales incentives, personnel issues, as well as keeping them updated on new products and programs. Companies use a variety of means to communicate with employees, including Intranet, email, online and print newsletters. In larger firms an in-house PR department often works in conjunction with the Human Resources Department to develop employee communications.

Community Relations and Philanthropy
For many companies fostering good relations with key audiences includes building strong relationships with their regional community. Companies implement programs supportive of the community ranging from supporting local organizations and institutions (e.g., arts organizations, community activities, parks) to conducting educational workshops (e.g., for teachers, parents) to donating product for community events and charitable fundraisers. The goal is generally to develop a positive relationship with members of the community (i.e., be known as a good neighbor). Effective community relations can help a company weather bad publicity or a crisis situation that can unexpectedly arise due to a problem with a product, unethical behavior by management, or even by false rumors. Some companies also make an effort to contribute to charitable organizations, often organizations that have some relationship to the company’s mission or to a key principal of the company.

Latest PR Trends:
Market Monitoring
Market Monitoring in recent times is done on a daily basis as monitoring public comment about an organization and its products is becoming very important especially with the explosion of information channels on the Internet. It helps us gather all the positive as well as the negative information and opinions about the organization.


Crisis Management
Crisis is a situation that can arise unexpectedly and needs to be dealt with efficiently and effectively and thus every organization has to be prepared to respond to a crisis quickly and this is the time when the effective strategy of the PR personnel could turn the crisis into an opportunity to enhance the organizations image.
Blogs
It is one example that shows the reach and advancement of Internet. It has become one of the latest and the most used tool for making an organization famous and wanted, because through Blogs the PR person can do a lot of networking depending upon the kind of fame one wants to add to the organizations name.
Forums
This plays as an important external factor that affects the working of an organization, it is not new but the revision of an old concept. It poses both opportunities and threats for those involved in PR. A presence in an influential forum helps build credibility for an organization as forum members recognize a company’s effort to reach out to the public, and as a negative aspect it can cause major problems as a breeding ground for rumor and accusation. The PR professional needs to keep a constant eye on the forum so that he can easily clarify the doubts that would give birth to rumors which can prove to be Harmful for the organization.
RSS Feeds
It stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is a wonderful technology that helps keep the target audience aware about every new happening and update in the organization so that the audience do not have to make huge efforts to know the developments and the information can reach them conveniently, easily and quickly.
Search Engine Optimization
It is a very different, new but a simple method that helps maintain the position of an organization through the media outlets. The ultimate aim of every organization is to be in limelight and this is one of the easiest options available. SEO involves concerted efforts and specific techniques to attain higher ranking for the particular organization.



Thus I would like to explain it very briefly that an effective PR campaign for a business organization comprises of all the above mentioned tools and also some others that are not mentioned here like Marketing Collaterals, Event Management, Investor Relations etc.and these altogether can play a significant and effective role in winning customer goodwill on a long term basis. It can also provide right orientation to marketing, sales, advertising and even publicity; paying good dividend to the operation of business.


Cheers!

Team Renaissance PR
" Nurturing Relations"

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