Community, Government and Consumer Relations

So far, we all have seen various community efforts by different companies in our communities. Most of them fill our hearts with some sort of satisfaction from knowing that through our support we are helping others somehow. This creates  a bond and  a good image of specific companies. I mean, hey, we’d rather buy from a company that demonstrates how they help the community rather than one that doesn’t right?

Serving diverse, multicultural communities has become a top business mandate. Most companies today donate a percentage of profits to nonprofit organizations. Most companies strive to be true citizens of their communities, as well as agents for social change.

Among the benefits of being involved in community relations as a business, Industry Canada says the following:

Businesses have relationships in their local communities, sharing common interests.  As such, it is valuable to spend some time considering how to leverage your relationships on mutually beneficial initiatives.  It is possible to enhance business performance, profitability and your reputation through your community involvement efforts.


More over, American politics, like all other sectors of society, has been overrun by social media and the Web. Ironically, the practice of public relations has been barred from the federal government since 1913. This is so because congress was concerned that public officials might use public relations to advance their own agendas, but the practice of PR is represented throughout the government: in all government branches, in all government agencies, on state and local levels, and in the lobbying function.

By the same token, when it comes to consumer relations, we realize that globalization and the Internet have pressured companies to be responsible while promoting products.  The challenge lies in differentiating one’s products from all the rest. Public relations techniques and social sensitivities can help distinguish a company from the competition.

In an era overwrought with advertising “noise,” public relations solutions can help to:
  • distinguish one company from the next.
  • enhance the sale of a firm’s products.
  • attract, win and keep customers. (Seitel, 2013)

Seitel, Fraser (2013). The Practice of Public Relations. 13th Edition.


Ethics, The Law, and Research in PR

This week, I will touching the core of PR. I will talk about three very important topics just as the tittle mentions. Those three elements are very important for the PR practitioner.

The practice of public relations is all about earning credibility and it must be based on doing the right thing, or acting ethically. Credibility begins with telling the truth.

Ethical decisions are based on:

  • Our moral choices
  • Norms of society
  • Legal principles
  • Organizational values
  • Professional values
Ethics should be the great differentiation between public relations and other professions.Public relations practitioners must emulate the highest standards of personal and professional ethics. Public relations practitioners must always counsel their organizations and clients in an ethical direction.
When it comes to law, public relations counselors and lawyers should work together to achieve a client’s desired outcome. This is often the case but there is also a fundamental difference in legal versus public relations advice.
  • Lawyers correctly advise clients on what they must do, within the letter of legal requirements to defend themselves in a court of law.
  • Public relations practitioners, advise clients on not what they must do but what they should do to defend themselves in the court of public opinion.

In an article entitled “How to maintain your credibility during a PR crisis” we find the following advise:

So, what can you do to maintain your credibility during a PR crisis?

Public relations practitioners must be aware of situations involving libel and slander. Many public relations professionals create, write and edit internal print and online newsletters. In this context, they must be careful not to defame fellow employees or others in what they write. The same rule applies for public relations professionals who make statements to the media on behalf of their organizations.

Public relations advisers depend on “buy-in” from others in management. Lawyers are among the most influential of these associates, therefore, forming an alliance with legal counselors must be a front-line objective for public relations professionals.

Research is essentially the first step with the client. Every public relations program or solution should begin with research. This is because the PR professional should have “proof” that what they advise is based on logic and clear thinking.

A firm must acquire enough accurate, relevant data about its publics, products and programs to answer the following questions:

  • How does this knowledge relate to the design of our message?
  • How does it relate to the design of our programs?
  • How does it relate to the media we use to convey our messages?
  • How does it relate to the schedule we adopt in using our media?
  • How does it relate to the implementation tactics of our program?

There is different types of Public Relations Research, among the ones used by PR professionals are:

  1. Applied research: strategic or evaluative.
  2. Theoretical research: More abstract and conceptual than applied research.
  3. Secondary Research: Allows to examine or read about and learn from someone else’s primary research.

On another article, entitled, Importance of Research in Public Relations we find the following explanation on the importance of research in this field.

Public relations professionals often find themselves in the position of having to convince management to fund research, or to describe the importance of research as a crucial part of a departmental or project budget. Research is an essential part of public relations management. Here is a closer look at why scholars argued that conducting both formative and evaluative research is vital in modern public relations management:

  1. Research makes communication two-way by collecting information from publics rather than one-way, which is a simple dissemination of information. Research allows us to engage in dialogue with publics, understanding their beliefs and values, and working to build understanding on their part of the internal workings and policies of the organization. 
  2. Research makes public relations activities strategic by ensuring that communication is specifically targeted to publics who want, need, or care about the information.Ehling and Dozier (1992).
  3. Research allows us to show results, to measure impact, and to refocus our efforts based on those numbers.Dozier and Ehling (1992). 

My advise would be as well that, before recommending a course of action, public relations professionals must analyze audiences, assess alternatives and generally do their homework.


Public Opinion and Managing Reputation

For anyone concerned about public opinion, it all comes down to managing reputation. Reputation is gained by what one does, not by what one says.The practice of reputation management aligns communications with an organization’s character and action. 

Although reputation is difficult to measure, it is a tangible asset. Managing reputation is a front line public relations responsibility.
Reputation comes from public opinion, that is, people form a criteria of who we are or who our products, or company are in their head and that goes along reputation. Opinion is highly sensitive to important events and it is determined more by events than words. Public opinion may vary greatly in a short spam of time or throughout the course of the years for different factors.
For example, American adults used to be very reluctant to same sex marriage, but over time they have changed their opinion and that has led to reforms in which same sex marriages are allowed in certain states, an article from Los Angeles times illustrates this as follows:

Nationally, 1 in 7 American adults said in a recent Pew Research Center survey that they had changed their minds about same-sex marriage. Nearly all had gone from opposing legal marriage for same-sex couples to supporting it.

Having a friend or family member who is gay was the most common reason for having switched positions, the poll found. Another national poll, by the Washington Post and ABC News, found that support for gay marriage is now at an all-time high nationwide.

As mentioned, different factors affect public opinion and when it comes to corporations or businesses, winning favorable public opinion isn’t an option, it is a necessity. For anyone concerned about public opinion, it all comes down to managing reputation and that could be done in several different sectors and places because basically a lot of people need the management of PR. From universities and colleges, to public relations agencies, professional organizations and local governments. 

For example, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes is scheduled to speak at the Public Relations Society of America’s annual conference about “public diplomacy,” a branch of government public relations. Public diplomacy is shaping the image of a nation (in this case, the United States) in the eyes of both traditional allies and enemy states.

As outlined in the example, it is imperative to have a specific person that takes charge of managing public relations and have the ability to convey a good image of the institution they work for. 





What is Public Relations?

Knowledge of how and when and to whom to communicate is the primary skill of the public relations practitioner. Above all else, public relations professionals are professional communicators. That means they must not only be knowledgeable about the various web-based techniques and tactics available to communicators in the 21st century but also understand what constitutes a credible message and how to deliver it. Because language and the meanings of words change constantly, semantics must be handled with extreme care. Good communication always consider the consequences of the words they plan to use before using them.

The power of the media particularly as an agenda setter is substantial. Agenda-setting is the creation of public awareness by the media – the ability to tell us what issues are important, it is also interesting how public relations professionals have a direct role in setting the agenda for others. The point is that people base perceptions on what they read or hear, often without bothering to dig further to elicit the facts. It is important to realize that although appearances are sometimes revealing, they are also often deceiving.

It is imperative for us to be careful in the way we acquire our information and if we were the public relations practitioners, we should be able to offer an honest, fact-based point of view that is able to offer credibility and proper communication of the event. An example of an scandalous and controversial issue in which many people have different opinions and different media sources throughout the world publish different perspectives, is the issue of Uranium Enrichment in Iran.  On the NY times I found today an article in which the following is said:

“Iran has always insisted that its program is peaceful and will be used only to generate electricity and for medical purposes. However, Iran has achieved the ability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent purity, and it is then relatively easy to increase enrichment to 90 percent, at which point it can be used to make a nuclear weapon, according to atomic experts.” NY Times

There is always a “however” in the picture and despite all the efforts of Iran to prove that their nuclear program has peaceful objectives, the media has made it seem as if they are the most dangerous country in the world.  All I would like to point out here is if you were to ask any citizen about their thoughts of Iran, chances are that all they know is that they want to create nuclear weapons or that they are a danger to the world and the United States.

To finalize, I would just like to say that there is always two sides of a story and that we, as the general public should be acquainted with both.