Definitions of Public Relations: Basic elements!

Definitions of Public Relations: Basic elements!


Why do we study Public Relations?

Let us start with the concept of I, we, we all. That is, individual,  group and different groups—the full merge into Public. Now, let me ask you, can you live alone? Can an individual live all by himself or herself? No. We cannot. Then what do we need? We need each other's help. Here comes sociology. We prefer to live in a  society. In society, individuals remain in a relationship with individuals, groups, institutions, and organizations. After birth, we come into contact with an institution called a hospital and another sociological institution called family. Along with our growth, we have come in touch with various other institutions and more and more Public and private groups. There is hardly any individual or organization who can exist alone, and live a life, be it personal or organizational.

We tend to live in a group:

Aristotle said long back that 'Man is a social animal'. They tend to stay connected instead of remaining in isolation. This is the basic instinct of a human being as a social entity. The world has become so inter-connected with the modern means of communication that it has become a global village. In this inter-connected world, every organization, be it a  Government or a Private, needs many people to interact for survival.

Society has also become interdependent. Every person depends on others to satisfy his or her needs. A business organization depends on its customers for sales and profits and employees for productivity and quality of products, the society on government for utilities, law and order and the younger generation on educational institutions for education and career advancement. We all depend on religious institutions for moral and spiritual guidance. We need a home for our comforts and other facilities.

All this tendency to live in a group suggests that man cannot live in isolation. On the contrary, we are interconnected with each other by our needs. So, in different situations, a group constantly interacts with each other.

How do people become powerful?

This large group of people is called the 'Public'. Gradually, the Public became a power group. Different groups came into existence. Each group started having power in different forms. The group of people became centres of power. This informal power of people started taking shape. This gave birth to political philosophy. The concept of Democracy took shape.

As we know, Democracy has a rich history. In our country, the concept of the Republic took shape in Vaishali in Bihar. However, on the other hand, the concept of Democracy originated in ancient Greece.

This power of the people led to the formation of 'Democracy' as a concept.

In a democracy, public opinion has great value. Now, matters are resolved not by force or fights but by exchanging ideas and opinions. There are different opinion groups. These groups have tremendous influence on society, political, and religious institutions.

Now, to handle this vast mass of people or the Public, a new philosophy has emerged, and a new management segment has also come into being, called 'Public Relations.

Now, how do we define PR or Public Relations?

There are about 500 definitions, which means those who practised  PR coined their definitions from their experiments. Dr Rex F Harlow, a well-known American professional, collated all such definitions, analyzed them and classified the essential and central ideas. From his analysis of 472  definitions, he produced a working definition which is both operational and conceptual.

"Public relation is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication,  understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics. It involves management of  problems or issues."

It helps management to be informed of public issues and helps them be responsive to public opinion. It defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest. It helps management to keep abreast of changes, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends and uses research and sound and honest communication as its principal tool.

As a management function, PR action means:

1. Anticipating, analysing and interpreting public opinion and attitudes that might impact, for better or worse, the operations and plans of the organisation.

2. Counselling the organisation at all levels concerning policy decisions, course of action and communication, considering their public ramifications and the organisation's social responsibilities.

3. Researching, conducting and evaluating programmes of action and communication continuously to achieve informed public understanding necessary for organisational success. They may include marketing, fundraising,  employees or community or government relations and planning and implementing Organisations' efforts to influence or change public policy.

4. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff,  developing facilities, and managing resources needed to perform all these actions.

To perform such professional tasks, a PR person must know about communication, psychology, social psychology,  sociology, political science, economics and management principles and ethics. Further, technical knowledge for opinion research, public issues analysis, media relations, direct mail,  institutional advertising, publication, film and video productions, and special events like public speeches and presentations.

According to Scott M Cutlip and Allen H Center, "Public Relations is the communication and interpretation of ideas from an institution to the public. And also the communication of information, ideas and opinions from the public to the institution or organisation. This is in mutual interest to achieve a  harmonious adjustment of an institution to its community."

Public Relations is Forty nine per cent doing things and Fifty one per cent communicating about it. However, public relations should not gloss over the bad deeds of an organisation to make it good, but can and should professionally help to get credit for a job well done by the organisation.

Now, to conclude, Public relations are a two-way communication channel between an organisation and different target groups to serve the following purposes.

1. To resolve the conflict of interest. Now, what is a conflict of interest? For example, when a person or a firm acts in two or more capacities, the objectives in each capacity differ or clash with one another.

2. PR seeks a common ground of mutual interest.

3. It establishes understanding based on truth, knowledge and  complete information

PR is not a strategic exercise to manipulate people for the organisation's benefit but has to play a mediator's role to establish a win-win situation between the organisation and the public. Thus, the PR person helps to define and implement policy, uses various communication skills and plays an integrative role both within the organization and between the organisation and the external environment.

What are the elements of public relations?

1. To maintain a relationship with the public through publicity to create a favourable opinion of itself, which may be a public or private organisation.

2. It is a management function, which evaluates public attitudes and the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation, and executes a program of action to earn public acceptance and understanding.

3. It is a practice to establish two-way communication to resolve conflicts of interest and to establish understanding based on truth, knowledge and complete information.

4. It is a management function that deserves equal attention as an asset of goodwill like any other business asset.

5. It combines philosophy, sociology, economics,  language, journalism, communication, psychology and other systems of human understanding.

6. It is an attempt by information, persuasion and adjustment to gather public support for a cause, activity or institution.

7. It is the communication of ideas from an institution to the public and those of the public to the institution, thus establishing a harmonious relationship between the institution and community.

8. PR is nothing but good communication to enable public appreciation for a good performance.

‌‌"Public Relations in its true sense is about human connections and the art of mastering human connections at a deep level. In the early days of PR, it was about relationships with not just the press but communities in various forms – the difference was that these audiences were not online. When played from a place of passion and purpose, public relations in the new world will not only take social media, branding and marketing to the next level but will elevate the people and products that are changing the world" by Renee Blodgett – Magic Sauce Media. ‌‌

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