There’s a common misconception about Public Relations professionals, that their job merely consists of drafting press releases, going to fancy events, annoying journalists all day and building strong relationships with key representatives from the media. In reality, is it their responsibility to become experts in interpreting the attitudes and needs of consumers, as well as public interest groups in order to influence their perception and opinions about a certain brand or entity. In other words, PR has the power to make or break a brand, and ultimately can convince consumers to truly believe that Starbucks is the bee’s knees of coffee.
Although this may seem quite twisted or misleading, PR always works in the basis of factual information; it’s simply about having the Midas touch, and turning the hard facts into publicity gold. Ultimately, what makes the PR universe revolve is the element that people take action upon their perception of facts. PR practitioners have the power to manage, control and influence people to take action or perceive a brand in a certain way, which ultimately works to the advantage and success of the brand.
So, why do huge companies and brands spend copious amounts of money on PR, time and effort to pursue people’s support? The answer is very simple – what the public and their target audience think about them in the long run, will ultimately decide their fate. Corporate bodies need PR, because it’s their job to influence people’s attitudes and opinions. As a matter of fact, every PR effort is built upon the acceptance of the power of public opinion – all PR activities are either aimed at out-rightly changing, influencing or managing the opinion of the public; whether that’s through press releases, conferences, speech writing or contribution in columns of expertise.
To gain the confidence and respect of their business communities and target audiences, brands are required to meticulously identify and accommodate the views of their constituencies on topics of importance to them – with the help of PR practitioners of course. It’s then PR’s job to strategically distribute this information in all the relevant mediums possible to maximise exposure.
Public opinion is what drives and is at the heart of PR, its whole essence is to help companies develop and sustain a good public and corporate image in the eyes of various stakeholder groups. Often people can confuse PR with advertising, because they both go hand in hand, however they both have entirely different goals and effects. Advertising focuses solely on the promotions of products or services with the focus on encouraging audiences to buy, whereas PR provides the facts to the target market and then allows them make their own decisions and opinion on the brand. Just like advertising, PR does indeed help increase sales and popularity of a brand, however its main focus is to create positive publicity and sustain a good public image. PR’s strong effect on swaying public opinion and perception goes solely with the fact that the public reacts differently to news articles and TV reports. Audiences feel more in control with their own decision making process whilst reading an article for example, than when looking at an advertisement, which is obviously trying to persuade them to buy the product.
Ultimately, PR is an extremely powerful tool that shapes brand identities, influences public opinion and directs audiences to perceive a brand in a certain light. There is a common rule of thumb in PR that if a person reads or hears a certain key message about a brand 5 times (whether it’s true or not) they will believe it to be true and associate the brand with this key words.
If this isn’t power, then what is?