Let's start with an understanding of traditional PR - itself somewhat intangible. As you will know, 'PR' and 'public relations' are often used interchangeably. Unfortunately, PR is also an acronym for 'press release' or 'press relations'. Of course, the scope of PR is much wider than press releases. The UK Institute of PR (IPR, 2003) defines PR as:
the management of reputation - the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
The 'publics' referred to include the range of organisations a company interacts with and is dependent on. These include investors, customers, employees, suppliers, government organisations and non-governmental organisations such as charities.
The Public Relationships Consultants Association (PRCA, 2005) defines PR as:
the managed process of communication between one group and another ... [it] is the method of defining messages and communicating them to target audiences in order to influence a desired response.
You can see that the PRCA definition is more action-oriented, in fact, not dissimilar to definitions for direct marketing. IPR (2003) notes that public relations involves activities such as media relations, corporate communications, community relations, corporate social responsibility issues and crisis management, investor relations, public affairs and internal communications.
From a marketing communications and traffic building perspective, the main activities we are interested in are media relations which are used to influence those in the marketplace. While web sites are important tools for promoting investor relations and CSR (corporate social responsibility), this is not our main focus here. The definition of PR activities above omits activities that can directly reach the consumer such as 'buzz marketing', although the media often have a role in that.
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