Publics of Public Relations: Public Opinion, Measuring Public Opinion & Opinion Leaders

Publics of Public Relations: Public Opinion, Measuring  Public Opinion & Opinion Leaders
Read How is public relations a management function!

Publics- A public is any group whose members have a  common interest or values in a particular situation.

The Public in PR can be categorised in many different  ways:

1. Traditional and non-traditional

2. Latent, Aware, or Active

3. Intervening Public

4. Primary and secondary publics

5. Internal and external

6. Domestic and international

1. Traditional publics: They have an ongoing relationship with the organisation. Examples: employees, governments,  investors, consumers, multicultural communities, voters, and other businesses.

Non-traditional: There is usually no ongoing or long-term relationship with the organisation. They exist on the fringe,  not very relevant to the organisation. However, if there are some organisational changes, they might become your Public.

2. Latent, aware or active:

The latent Public has no functional relationship with the organisation.

Aware Public is aware of a relationship or commonality of values or interests with the organisation but has made no organised efforts to respond to such a relationship.

Active Public is aware of the relationship and realises its importance and makes efforts to manage that relationship on its own terms.

3. Intervening Public: Any public that helps you to send a  message to another public. Example mass media without which any organisation cannot build relationships with other publics.

4. Primary & Secondary Public:

Primary Publics are essential to an organisation,  relationship with it can directly affect your organisational goals. For example, employees, your immediate community,  media, Govt., shareholders, financial institutions, etc. Secondary publics are also critical; you must have a good relationship with them. But, the degree to which they affect your organisation's pursuit of its goals is minimal.

5. Internal public & External Public:

Internal Public are those in relationships within the organisation. Like in an educational institution, students,  academics, non-academics, canteen managers, etc., are the internal Public.

External publics: Those who are not within the organisation but have a relationship with the organisation. Like your immediate community, providers of social amenities like water, electricity, other institutions like educational or medical, etc.

6. Domestic and International Publics:

Domestic Publics: Those who are within your country. International Publics: They are beyond the boundary of the organisation. Relationship with these publics is now growing more in the face of globalisation. It may include knowledge about that country, its culture, belief, value, etc.

Linkages Theory of classification of Publics: Linkage is a  sociological concept that identifies a pattern of relationships between an organisation and its Public. Linkage theory is associated with Milton Esman.

According to the theory of Linkages, there are four types of  Publics:

1. Functional Publics: The publics help an organisation achieve its chosen goals. Customers, consumers, employees, trade unions,  suppliers, etc.

2. Enabling Publics: The Public permits an organisation to function within the framework of the society to which it belongs. Example; Regulatory bodies,  Community Leaders, politicians, Shareholders, etc

3. Diffused Leaders: The varied publics. Example: Media  Organisations, Pressure Groups, Local Residents, etc. 4. Normative Publics: The publics like Trade Associations  and Professional Bodies, Political Parties, etc

Stages in the Development of Publics:

The involvement of the Public varies from stage to stage. For example, it may transform from Non-Public, Latent Public or Apathetic Public to Aware and Active Public.


- have nothing in common

- no consequences between organisation and group of  people

Public Relations Activity: Monitor

Latent Public

- face a similar situation

- unaware of consequences

Public Relation Activity: Plan for communication Apathetic Public

- face a similar situation

- don't care; consequences not perceived as important Public Relation Activity: Monitor

Aware Public

- face a situation

- perceive it as relevant

- not organised or active on the issue

Public Relation Activity: Initiate proactive communication

Active Public

- face a situation

- perceive it as relevant

- organised for action

The active Public may be enthusiastic about all issues, popular topics, or single issues.

Public Relation Activity: Engage in reactive communication. Why Should We know Or Define Publics?

Unless we know our Public, it will be almost impossible to plan a good and helpful PR campaign.

What Happens If We Do Not Define Publics? Efforts & funds will be scattered indiscriminately in the  attempt to reach too many publics; The same message will  be issued irrespective of its suitability for different groups of  people;

Public Opinion:

Public opinion is the measure of what the Public thinks about a particular issue.

Where Does Public Opinion Come From?

Public opinion is mainly influenced by factors like family beliefs, peer beliefs, education, religious beliefs, and media depictions.

How Do We Know What People Think?

There are a lot of ways to measure public opinion.

Informal ways to measure Public Opinion:

1. Elections: It may not be a perfect way of measuring Public  Opinion because they reflect only the opinion of those who voted. But, they are the most effective means by which  Public Opinion can control the Govt. or Public Policy.

2. Interest Groups or Lobbyists: This is another way through which Public Opinion can be judged. But, these groups may not represent the Public as a whole. The wealthy and educated members of the society are most likely to be organised into Interest groups and employee representatives. The poor and uneducated are much less able to speak to the Government through Lobbyists.

3. The Media: The Government and citizens look to the media to understand the views of the Public. Media is essential in understanding people's opinions.

4. Letters & Calls: People use letters and telephone calls to express their opinions to their elected representatives. Sometimes, it may be for personal reasons, but many communicate on public issues.

5. Protests: Protests indicate citizens' dissatisfaction with Govt. policies.

6. Straw Polls: Questionnaires are sent to the constituents to ascertain their opinion on important issues of the day.

Formal ways ( Quantitative) to measure Public Opinion:

Sample Survey:

The most common method for learning about Public  Opinion. In a Sample Survey, researchers ask a few hundred or a few thousand people for their opinions on any issue. It is considered the best way to judge Public opinions. There are three ways to survey People:

1. Face-to-face interview- It is not very common nowadays.

2. Telephone Interviews- Now quite common.

3. Mail Survey- In this case, response rates are low. You also don't know who is giving a response; the advantage is that you can provide your opinions freely and frankly.

4. Other methods of data collection - Internet Interviews which are not very common due to accessibility to computers.

Advantages: with careful random selection, the survey results can be projected to the entire population. Disadvantages: Respondents may lack knowledge or information and may not have adequate time to respond or reflect.

To have an effective Sample Survey:

Randomness has to be ensured, and questions should not be misleading.

Formal ( Qualitative) way to measure Public Opinion: 1.

In-depth Interviews

2. Focus Groups: It may be a group of 8 to 10 people who can uncover ordinary people's perspectives and thought patterns. It has the disadvantage that results are not always projectable.

Characteristics of Public Opinion:

(i) Public opinion is concerned with a matter of public importance. It is not concerned with the interests of a  particular group of people.

(ii) Public opinion is for social welfare. The welfare of society is an essential characteristic of public opinion.

(iii) Public opinion is arrived at after careful thought. It is the tentative deliberative adjustment of the Public to a situation. It is a logical view of things.

(iv) It is a suitable product. It is the product of the interaction of human minds.

(v) Public opinion is related to a particular age or time. Therefore, it is to be evaluated in a particular situation.

(vi) Public opinion has a cultural base. Therefore, the culture of a  society influences public opinion.

(vii) Lastly, numbers are not necessary to constitute public opinion. The opinion of even a single person may be called public opinion though not held by the majority. For example, the opinion of Mahatma Gandhi, though owned by him alone, could be rightly called public opinion. However, the opinion held by a  minority must be shared by the majority not by force but by conviction.

Opinion Leaders

An opinion leader is a well-known individual or an organisation that can influence public opinion. Opinion leaders can be politicians, business leaders,  community leaders, journalists, educators, celebrities, and sports stars.

Regarding marketing, opinion leaders are individuals who can influence the purchasing decisions of others. They may possess more specialised knowledge about a specific field,  which makes them somewhat of an authority in the eyes of others. Opinion leaders are commonly targeted by marketers because of the influence they wield over other consumers. Celebrities are often defined as opinion leaders. Many products are marketed with celebrity endorsements.

Why Identifying Opinion Leaders, a Crucial PR Target? Because they can influence other people's actions through interpersonal contact.

Opinion leaders are in a position to influence other people's actions because they:

–are respected.

–have a view that carries weight in a community. –are catalysts for the formation of public opinion. –are highly interested in an issue or issues.

–are better informed than the average person. –are believed to have more knowledge of a subject or issue. –are avid consumers of mass media.

–are interpreters of media content.

–actively search out information on a subject.

–like to let their opinions be known

–actively share information.

Opinion leaders play an essential role in the decision-making process. It has been found that media information did not get directly to target audiences and influence their behaviour. Instead, it first reaches opinion leaders, who evaluate it, and then share it with others in their social circles. The role of opinion leaders in the five steps of decision-making, like creating Awareness, sharing Information or Interest, making evaluations, venturing into Trials, conducting Adoption and undertaking Reinforcement.

Sign up for the blog-newsletter! I promise that we do not spam...