Public relations

Public relations (PR) seeks to establish and reinforce goodwill between an organization and all its publics (customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, financial publics, mass media, consumers' associations, government officials, and the general public). A specific variation of PR is the marketing department's public relations, whose goal is to obtain editorial space— instead of paid space—in print, broadcast, and electronic media to tout a product, a service, a person, or a company. The major tools in public relations are news (from creating news stories to getting them accepted by the press or a given public);speeches;events;public service activities;written materials (such as annual reports, brochures, articles, company newsletter, and magazines);audiovisual materials;and telephone information services.

Compared with advertising, public relations provides a higher degree of credibility and better efficiency when overcoming resistance to change; actually, these messages are perceived as if they were not directly sent by the company and are therefore more readily accepted. Credibility and overcoming resistance to change are two key elements of success in marketing a high-tech product or a new technology. This was well understood by the founders of Yahoo who decided to hire Niehaus Ryan Wong (NRW), a South San Francisco public relations agency long before their Web site went public [19]. The PR campaign positioned the firm as an Internet directory, and not a search engine, to downplay the technical aspect of the company, at a time when few journalists were covering the Internet. The other inspired choice was to target mainstream reviews such as People to underline the positioning of Yahoo as a fun consumer product. It worked beautifully. When Yahoo went public in April 1996, the buzz was incredible: reporters came from all parts of the world to see Yahoo going public and its two founders becoming instant billionaires. In its first 6 months of existence, according to NRW, Yahoo got more than 600 pieces of press coverage in prestigious media such as Time, Business Week, and so on.

Another attraction of PR is its low cost compared to its performance. Dell, which has built a significant amount of its brand recognition through smart PR, is said to have spent $430 million on advertising versus $2 million in MPR in 2002 [20].

The emphasis placed on trade shows, conventions, and seminars, as well as editorials in professional journals, indicates how high-tech companies are aware that communication is not limited to single advertising promotions, even for consumer markets. Usually, companies provide their own development and coordination of public relations strategies, although some companies use special consulting firms, particularly when launching a new product, to maximize the impact of the event.

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