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The History Of Public Relations Worldwide Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 4701 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Public Relations have come a long way all around the world (Lee & Johnson, 2005). The term “public relations” was first used by Dorman Eaton in 1882 (Smith, 2010), when he addressed Yale Law school graduates on the “The Public Relations of the legal profession”. He used the term to refer to an organisation’s role in serving the public welfare. But actually, public relations go back even further. It is believed that it has existed in the Antiquity. The Greeks called it “semantikos” meaning semantics which they defined as how to make people believe things and do things. Another example of public relations is in the Ancient Rome when Julius Caesar wrote the first campaign biography, to convince the Roman he would make the best head of state.

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Certainly during the early of the twentieth century public relations became more significant. In fact, in 1903 Ivy Lee distinguished himself as the first public relations counselor. Wikipedia states that he is among the founding fathers of public relations. He was a counselor to governments and railroads. One of his famous clients was D.Rockefeller (Smith, 2010). Lee believed that public relations should be about:

Telling the truth

Providing accurate fact

The public relations director must have access to top management and must be able to influence decisions

Another founding father that marked the history of Public relations is Edward Bernays, student and nephew of Sigmund Freud ( Wikipedia).In 1918, he advised the President of Czechoslovakia to announce Independence on a Monday rather than on a Sunday, to get maximum press coverage. In 1923, Bernays published “Crystallizing Public Opinion,” (Smith, 2010) in which he established several public relations principles. He said that public relations had these functions include:

To interpret the client to the public, which means promoting the client

To interpret the public to the client, which means operating the company in such a way as to gain the approval of the public

He also advised public relations professionals to seek out group leaders and other key communicators (opinion leaders), who would be able to pass along ideas to other members of the public.

Other Bernay’s concepts were:

Public relations is a public service

It should promote new ideas and progress

Public relations should build a public conscience

Some other public relation pioneers are Elmer Davis, who was a former journalist during World War 2. He coordinated public information from the military and also mobilized public support for the war effort in order to decrease the enemy’s moral.

Pendleton Dudhey was also a pioneer of public relations consultant. In 1909, he opened an agency. He emphasized a lot of the public information model of public relations (Smith, 2010)

Later in 1957, Anne Willian Wheaton became the associate press secretary to American President Dwight Eisenhower. Her appointment called attention on the growing role of women in public relations (Smith, 2010).

Definition of Public Relations

Public relations is defined as being “aspect of communications that involves promoting a desirable image for a person or group seeking public attention” in the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. It also states that the purpose of Public relations is to generate good news, be cautious about what to print or to broadcast, to forestall bad news and analyse the situation, minimize the damage and provide the media with information in moments of crisis. The Barron’s Marketing Dictionary’s definition goes further by adding that apart from seeking understanding, Public relations also seek acceptance from the public and is about building a sympathetic relationship with the latter, and that it is more concerned about issues rather than products or services. The Marketing Dictionary also states that employees, investors, voters are not to be forgotten when building relationships. Grunig and Hunt support these statements by saying that PR is the management of communication between an organization and the public. Rubel (2007), further elaborates that some of the PR activities are to speak at conferences, to deal with the media, to defend the reputation of an organization, to communicate to the employees, and to engage in social media. Phillips and Young (2009), agree with the fact that the engagement in social media forms part of Public relations since they say that communication tools like personal computers, mobile phones, video game consoles can be used for interactive communication and can thus be used for Interactive Public Relations. In contrast to these statements, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations perceives PR as an art and a social-science which analyse trends, forecast their consequences, provide organizational leaders with advice, and implement planned programs of action which will be beneficial to the organization and the public.

Objectives of Public relations

As per the statement in the Reference of Business, to bring forth, sustain and defend the image and reputation of a company, are some of the main objectives of Public relations. It also claims that a company’s reputation does have an effect on the consumers’ buying behaviour and consequently affects the sales and revenue. Other goals which it puts forward are, to generate relationships with the employees, the stockholders and investors, the media and the community. Furthermore, there is the aspect of providing the publics with information about a company or its new legislations, or even educating them about the uses of a product. These points are elaborated in knowthis.com where it is said that PR tools such as newsletters, websites and so on can be used to educate the audiences about products and services and that the objective of Public relations can also be to reinforce a brand by building positive relationships with the publics and enhance the image of the company, because this can prove to be helpful especially in moments of crises. Moreover, it supports the idea that Public relations can help increase sales by stating that a good news release can stimulate demand, thus increasing sales.

Advantages of Public relations

When it comes to the advantages of Public relations, it can be noticed that credibility is a recurrent word. In an article on Drypen, it is said that one of the advantages of Public relations is that it nurtures credibility, unlike advertising. Which implies that the publics are apt to believe in a news release published in the newspaper or in a magazine but, on the other hand, will be quite sceptical about the advertisement of a product in the newspaper or in a magazine. On top of that, PR messages are viewed as news providing detailed information about a product and are more likely to attract the audiences’ attention. It is also mentioned that Public relations cost much less than advertising and can be more effective, in the sense that, it can be used to reach small market segments, especially for companies with financial problems. Another advantage is that it helps an organization establish a good image which can be of great help to the latter in case of crisis. Knowthis.com further adds that it may happen that other media pick up an article about a company and contributes in spreading the news to different locations.

Disadvantages of Public relations

One of the disadvantages stated on TutorsOnNet.com is that there may be distortion of information, in the sense that, the company may be deceived with the end result due to the fact that some information written in the draft have been modified in order to suit the news story and other features in the newspaper. Another disadvantage is that, there is the possibility of the public not being interested in the news release because of some other, more serious news such as war, disasters, crime and so on. On knowthis.com, it is also mentioned that, PR campaigns may not necessarily bring high return on promotional expense, especially if the news media does not consider it important or worth running a story brought forth by a company. Moreover, the fact that the impact of traditional news outlets is decreasing, professionals in the Public relations field are compelled to look for new means to attain the target markets.

Advantages of In-House Public relations

In a research on the Public relations industry, it is said that, some advantages of in-house PR are that it operates on a full-time basis. Thus the PR officer and other staffs in the PR department are able to dedicate much time working on a PR campaign unlike agencies which have to deal with different clients. Another advantage is that the PR officer can be quickly informed about changes or any other information regarding Public relations since the latter is an integral part of the organization. Moreover, there is the aspect of value for money, in the sense that, the PRO can easily have access to research materials, videos, photographic library of the company, which can be used when working on the house journal or even when dealing with the media, thus working economically. PR department initially cost a lot as compared with consultancy fees, but in the long term, it is greater value for money.

Disadvantages of In-House Public relations

As stated in the study on the Public relations industry, one of the main disadvantages of in-house PR is the lack of impartiality, training and experience. In an article on issuesinimc.wikispaces.com, it is said that, when it comes to in-house PR, there is the risk of the PR manager bringing some elements of bias in favour of the company. It also adds that it is difficult for managers to train employees from different branches if ever a company has many branches, thus resulting in lack of training. According to Jefkins (1993), PR managers being considered as experts in their field, consequently possess a limited public relations experience, that is, they do not have much knowledge of the general public relations practices.

Advantages of Public relations Consultancy

On careerride.com, it is said that, one of the advantages of PR consultancy is that it cost less. In addition to that, PR consultancy organizations have a wider experience of the general public relations practices and on top of that, they are more familiar with the media and have good media relations, issuesinimc.wikispaces.com. The article on the Public relations industry also includes the fact that external PR consultancy being an independent organization, will not bring elements of bias.

Disadvantages of Public relations Consultancy

The disadvantage which is stated on careerride.com is that PR agencies deal with several different clients and not only one client and is therefore not available full time. They may also find it difficult to cope with the company’s internal culture. In the Public relations industry study, the disadvantage which is stated is the “lack of relationship intimacy” and that they have to be loyal to different companies at the same time. The article on issueinimc.wikispaces.com, also include the issue of remoteness of the agency from the company.

Definition of Litigation PR

Litigation public relations is the management of the announcement process during the course of any legal dispute so as to influence the outcome or its impact on the client’s overall reputation (Haggerty, 2003).

Background study

Petitioners and prosecutors have extensively used mass media to get their part of the story out to the public, but the formal practice of litigation PR, a sub-specialty of crisis communication, first appeared in the early 1980s. Since then, the need for litigation PR has grown immensely as media exposure of court cases and the law has increased. Most parties to a lawsuit have important interests that expand beyond legal concerns. Negative publicity about a litigant can cause damage to an individual’s reputation that a courtroom win years later may not salvage. Thus, parties to cases, whether civil or criminal, cannot disregard the impact of negative publicity on public opinion (Reber, Gower, & Robinson, 2006).

Basic Concepts of Litigation Public Relations-

The First Concept-Litigation PR is to influence the outcome of the court case by encouraging early or favorable arrangement or by pressuring the tribunal into bringing lesser or no chargers (Haggerty, 2003).

The Second Concept-Litigation PR is to protect the client’s reputation before and during the trail. In this regard, litigation PR is similar to reputation management. Reputation management is about managing public opinion of an organization or individual. It is about attitude toward the individual and not knowledge itself. An essential aspect of reputation management is influencing attitude about the individual and corporation, which can encourage positive foundation to the benefit of the organization (Haywood, 2002).

Litigation PR and Media Coverage

Litigation PR on the part of defendants is needed, especially in high-profile cases because the media have unnatural bias in favor of plaintiffs and prosecutors. When allegations are made public, the media tend to cast the lawsuit in terms of victim versus villain. News stories regularly lead with the plaintiff or prosecutors’ allegations. If the defendant’s responses are included at all, they appear well into the story. Thus, the defendant is forced on the defensive from the outset. In such situation, “working with the media to create more balanced, accurate, and less sensational coverage of a lawsuit is necessary element in defending high profile defendants” (Hantler, Schwartz, & Goldberg, 2004, p. 8).

Fitzpatrick’s Six Objectives of Litigation Public Relations

1. Counteracting negative publicity.

2. Making a client’s viewpoint known.

3. Ensuring balanced media coverage.

4. Helping the media and the public understand complex legal issues.

5. Defusing a hostile environment.

6. Helping resolve the conflict (Fitzpatrick, 1996).

To achieve those objectives, the first step is to establish reliability with the media as an information source. The next step is to manage the flow of information to the media so that the right message gets out. The third step is to develop a message that supports the client’s position and get that message out to the media and the public (Fitzpatrick, 1996, Haggerty, 2003, Reber, Gower, & Robinson, 2006).

Differences between Litigation PR and Other PR Practices

Litigation PR is highly dependent on the media. Although the practice of PR involves far more than just mediated communication, litigation PR remains dependent on the media. It is because of the media’s increased attention to lawsuits that litigation PR has become a necessity for many high profile clients (Gibson, 1998).

Because typical public relations campaign strategies and tactics may not be appropriate and may even be harmful at certain times during a lawsuit, the legal tactic must take procedure (Schweitzer, 2003).

Litigation PR is more regulated than regular public relations because of the potential to prejudice the legal process (Gibson, 1998).

Litigation PR is directed with the emphasis of one-way, irregular communication. Because the law is adversarial in nature, creating a win-lose situation, the goal of litigation PR is to strengthen the legal strategy and theory of the case to make sure a win and to diminish damage to the organization’s credibility and reputation (Reber, Gower, & Robinson, 2006).

Public Relations (PR) Strategies

Public Relations involve an array of programs designed to maintain or augment a company’s image and the products and services it offers. Successful implementation of an effective public relations strategy can be a vital element to a marketing plan (Berry and Wilson, 2000).

In public relations practice, strategy typically refers to the overall concept, approach, or general plan for the program designed to achieve a goal (Cutlip, 2006). A public relations (PR) strategy may play a key role in an organization’s promotional strategy. A planned approach to leveraging public relations opportunities can be just as important as advertising and sales promotions (Berry and Wilson, 2000).

According to Lages and Simkin (2003), plans give focus and direction to every strategy. Smith (2008) highlighted the point that careful planning leads to programs that are proactive and preventative, rather than to activities that are merely reactive and remedial. So, in order to ensure the success of Strategic Public Relations Planning, Cutlip et al (2003) proposed the “four-step problem solving process”.


Four-step Process Strategic Planning Steps and Program Outline


Defining the Problem 1. The Problem, Concern, or Opportunity

“What’s happening now?”

2. Situation Analysis (Internal and External)

“What positive and negative forces are operating?”

“Who is involved and/or affected?”

“How are they involved and/or affected?”


Planning and Programming 3. Program Goal

“What is the desired solution?”

4. Target Publics

“Who-internal and external-must the program respond to, reach, and affect?”

5. Objectives

“What must be achieved with each public to accomplish the program goal?”


Taking Action and Communicating 6. Action Strategies

“What changes must be made to achieve the outcomes stated in the objectives?”

7. Communication Strategies

“What message content must be communicated to achieve the outcomes stated in the objectives?”

“What media best deliver that content to the target publics?”

8. Program Implementation Plans

“Who will be responsible for implementing each of the action and communication tactics?”

“What is the sequence of events and the schedule?”

“How much will the program cost?”


Evaluating the Program 9. Evaluation Plans

“How will the outcomes specified in the program goal and objectives be measured?”

10. Feedback and Program Adjustment

“How will the results of the evaluations be reported to program managers and used to make program changes?”

Major Public Relations’ Tools

According to Kotler and Armstrong (2007), there exist various tools that can be used in the practice of public relations. One of the major tools is news whereby PR professionals find or create favourable news about the company and its products or people. They argued that news stories can sometimes occur naturally, and at times the PR person can suggest events or activities that would create news. They mentioned that Speeches can also create product and company publicity and that increasingly, companies are giving talks and speeches at trade associations or meetings for building company’s image.

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Another common PR tool is special events which ranges from news conferences, press tours, grand openings, star-studded spectaculars, or educational programs designed to reach and interest target publics (Kotler and Armstrong, 2007). Also, public relations people prepare written materials to reach and influence their target markets. These materials include annual reports, brochures, articles, and company newsletters and magazines.

Audiovisual materials, such as films, slide-and-sound programs, DVDs, and online videos are being used increasingly as communication tools. Corporate identity materials can also help create corporate identity that the public immediately recognizes. Logos, stationery, brochures, signs, business forms, business cards, buildings, uniforms, and company cars and trucks – all become marketing tools when they are attractive, distinctive, and memorable (Kotler and Armstrong, 2007).

Trends in Public Relations

Interactive public relations use internet technologies and tools such as search engine, Web 2.0 social bookmarking, new media relations and social media marketing to allow firms circulate information without relying only on conventional publications and communicate directly with the public, existing and potential customers. It is sometimes called social PR which comprises of a combination of search-optimizing press releases, creating social media releases through tools like Pitch Engine and blogger outreach to promote company news and announcements. Even though press releases were distributed online for more than a decade, it’s only in the last few years that tools and techniques for combining PR with social media have really emerged, and they continue to evolve. It incorporates all forms of communication and is not solely limited to online press releases and bloggers, but instead uses every element of building relationships while maintaining the significance of the spoken word.

Social Media

It is mostly talked trend in the public relations industry. PR professionals are communications specialists, and blogs, forums, online video and social networking offer the ability to communicate more affordably and efficiently than ever before. Social media channels give PR expert the possibility to gain access to consumer opinions and behavior.

Online Press Releases & Newsrooms

Press release purpose is changing and it is written with keyword-rich content and distributed with the only aim of better optimizing sites for search engines. The formatting and functionality of press releases and online newsrooms are evolving to integrate social bookmarking, video, blogs, podcasts and RSS feeds.

Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online. Basically the file is not shared but they are bookmarked to refer later on. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us and Reddit have changed the way PR consume and share news.

Search Engine Optimisation

Search engine optimisation has aim to guide and improve website rankings on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or MSN Search. In order to optimise web pages, different methods can be used such as using keywords in the HTML coding, Meta and Title tags, and also Alt tags on images. Good design and easy navigation in the website also helps to optimise it for search engines. However it could be argued that there are some flaws with SEO. There is always the chance of getting too much business. A company with a highly successful website may find that business is moving faster than they can cope. With something such as pay per click advertising, it would be easy to turn off or remove the advertisements, but it wouldn’t be as simple to remove a whole website in order to slow down sales.

Social networking

Social networks are websites that enable individuals to interact with one another via the internet. It allows its users to use this platform to gain interest from web users on a professional or social basis. These websites allow people to not only get to know one another but to also share Photos, music, view TV clips, messages and blogs. In this way Social networks are used by companies in order to promote their brands or products to the public or for general use and as a way of making friends. Examples of social networking platforms are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. These are all online tools companies can use to get more in touch with their customers, create a more personified brand image, and share information about the firm.

Sending press releases. Though tied to PR for the past few decades, this is also used in marketing. Press releases are great ways to alert people of new things happening, and great ways to pitch the media.

Having a blog. If companies would rather not pitch the media and communicate with their customers through this and social networking, blogs can be a great outlet for information sharing.

Hosting forums, chats, chatrooms, etc. This is a means to provide a way for customers to contact you with complaints, concerns, questions, etc. Customers will talk about you anyways, and with the availability of places for them to do so, they have no reason not to.

Being more personable. This can be hard to fake, so it takes actual effort, time, and energy. The company needs to utilize the tools above and actually be available and accessible.

Going above and beyond expectations. This is something used in customer service, but in PR, you can do the same thing. Customers are used to companies doing the minimum to satisfy their needs, but satisfying and creating loyal customers are very different tasks.

RSS Feeds

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, is a family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works-such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video-in a standardized format. They are very efficient tool to monitor regularly updated online content, such as: blogs, news headlines, forum posts and podcasts. RSS feeds give PR specialist the ability to consume and filter massive amounts of information and news from mainstream and social media sites. Its reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new work, downloads any updates that it finds, and provides a user interface to monitor and read the feeds. RSS allows users to avoid manually inspecting all of the websites they are interested in, and instead subscribe to websites such that all new content is pushed onto their browsers when it becomes available.

PR 2.0

PR 2.0 makes use of a combination of social media tools that are available to communications expert to attain and better communicate directly with consumer audiences and influencers. Social Media is a way that allows audiences to drive the communication in their communities. PR expert are starting to incorporate PR 2.0 into their strategy and planning as an effective way to communicate directly to Web 2.0 audiences so as to raise awareness and increase brand awareness. Nowadays these tools are available to reach the audiences who want to control their own communication to know about different brands. Web 2.0 technology combined with an audience’s desire to build and share content has transformed the PR industry.

PR – Podcasts, Vidcasts and Webcasts

Podcasts, vidcasts and webcasts are three effective tools available to PR professional whose job is to get the company news to the targeted audiences.

Podcasting involves recording to a digital file that can be distributed over the net using syndication feeds for playback on a computer, MP3 player or iPod.

Vidcasting is a video-on-demand video clip delivered to computers and can be downloaded and watched at the viewers’ convenience.

Webcasts differ from podcasts and vidcasts in that they can either be live or recorded. Webcasting can be thought of as broadcasting via the Internet.


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