Communicating Public Relations' Value

Business Value and Public Good are Essence of PR Today

When someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” can you explain it clearly and concisely? Are you frustrated by references that equate public relations to publicity? Do you correct those who refer to our craft as spin, our professionals as flacks, and our currency as misrepresentation and disinformation?

Here are some message points that will help begin the process of changing some entrenched attitudes and perceptions:

  • Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. It is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action. It has real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals.
  • Public relations and publicity are not synonymous; publicity is a small subset and specialized discipline within public relations, often practiced by dedicated firms who may or may not possess broader strategic communications capabilities.
  • A survey of chief marketing officers at major national and global advertisers conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that the value public relations delivers as part of the overall marketing mix is increasing. Why? A few reasons. Public relations is closer to the perspectives, objectives and concerns of corporate CEOs than any other communication or marketing discipline. Public relations also sees “the whole corporate picture,” as it relates to issues that CEOs worry about. Finally, public relations is a key driver of business outcomes critical to organizational success, including crisis mitigation, reputation and brand building, consumer engagement, sales generation, wealth creation, issues management and beneficial shifts in constituent attitudes and behaviors.
  • Public relations professionals have a special obligation to practice their craft ethically, with the highest standards of truth, accuracy, fairness and responsibility to the public. The PRSA Code of Ethics provides a practical set of standards to follow in this regard.
  • Public relations has served immeasurable public good. It has changed attitudes and behaviors toward some of the world’s most pressing social issues, from breast cancer awareness to drinking and driving to smoking and obesity. The public relations industry also has prevented consumer injury and illness, raised awareness of products that have improved our quality of life, advanced worthwhile causes and provided pro-bono services for institutions that needed public relations assistance but could not afford it.

Credit: Public Relations Society of America


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There's Definitely a Business Case to Be Made for Public Relations

I recently had the opportunity to ring the opening bell for the NASDAQ – a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I clearly had never placed on my bucket list. Even more curious, it was done for an organization that is not a listed or public company. I was there representing a professional association of public relations professionals, which represents a multibillion-dollar global industry.

So how did this happen? It was the result of an advocacy program for public relations launched by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to outline the value and impact that public relations has on an organization’s success The Business Case for Public Relations.

Many don’t understand the essence of our business. Stylized notions of celebrity publicists and Beltway spokespeople pervade the news and popular culture, and the term “PR” itself has become common shorthand for the impression – good or bad – that organizations create.

That’s why PRSA developed The Business Case for Public Relations. The program showcases the role of public relations and the professional value it delivers to essential business outcomes:

  • Distinct skills provide services like crisis mitigation, reputation and brand building, wealth creation and consumer engagement.
  • More than other communications and marketing disciplines, public relations engages all stakeholders of an organization, identifying and delivering impacts that are strategically aligned with concerns of the boardroom, employees, customers and investors.
  • Public relations skills are critical to restoring waning public confidence in government and financial institutions as well as being essential to define, develop and maintain the transparency that consumers expect from the companies with whom they choose to do business.

Today more than ever before, companies and organizations need the value that public relations can deliver. As consumer engagement grows through social media, companies will need to outline an increased ability to manage the relationship and conversation that impacts their success in the marketplace. But companies need to engage a public relations professional that understands how to research, plan, execute and evaluate based upon the organization’s defined objectives in order to achieve value.

If your public relations activities are focused on business output and media clips instead of business outcomes, then you are coming up short in a return on your investment. On the other hand, your investment in public relations will garner attention when you can show how that investment delivers value in financial performance by generating sales, revenue and profit; improves your brand equity and reputation; allows for stronger and more efficient employee recruitment and retention; and increases the support you seek for policy decisions or achieving market position.

I hope that you will take time to find out more about the value of public relations on an organization’s performance by visiting [email protected] Moreover, I hope that you find and define the value that public relations is currently delivering or can definitely deliver in your organization.

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