by Hope Peterson
What do you think a lawyer would say if a public relations professional asked to organize a communication plan for the lawyer’s firm? Probably “no, we don’t need it.”
Even though he would be wrong, don’t be too quick to judge this hypothetical lawyer. Many think public relations practitioners offer skills that are only needed by hot-shot celebrities who get themselves in trouble and need well-spoken professionals to deal with their “press.” And why would a lawyer have any need for that?
This assumption couldn’t be more wrong. While the above view of public relations does describe a small part of the field, it doesn’t begin to explain everything the field accomplishes. In fact, public relations is useful for any type of client.
To understand how public relations is essential one must know what it really is, not just how Samantha Jones portrays it on Sex and the City.
What is it?
The Certified Institute of Public Relations defines public relations as the “the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its products or services.” Public relations strives to develop favorable feelings through relationships.
In an article from Advertising & Marketing Review, Gwinavere Johnston of JohnstonWells Public Relations explained public relations as “the management of relationships between an organization and the constituencies upon which it depends.”
And, what makes managing a relationship possible? If both parties LISTEN. And how can you listen without communicating?
Public relations forms relationships by focusing on two-way interactions with publics. It is not just about what the public knows, but how they interact and respond to information. Public relations opens up communication through a variation and combination of the use of blogs, websites, phones, Twitter, Facebook, face-to face interactions, letters, speeches, press releases, TV, radio, bulletins, seminars, contests, coupons and hundreds more. The important factor is that the end result is a relationship.
According to a blog written by PRSA News Pros, public relations essentially “put[s] the ‘relationship’ in public relations.”
Once a relationship is created, the question becomes what to do with it? Good relationships build good reputations.
A reputation is the way a public perceives the company. Johnston said reputation for a company is based on the perceptions of the “quality of products or services, earning and business performance, stability and fairness as an employer, level of integrity in business practices, degree of honesty and openness, and involvement in local communities.”
However, reputations are only useful if they are accepted. And reliable reputations for corporations can only be achieved from long-term communication that builds long-term feelings of trust (a.k.a., a good relationship).
Why is public relations valuable to all?
Public relations deals with the root of all problems a company could face by first finding where the issue stems from. A good relationship allows transparent communication between the company and the public to determine the origin of the problem.
Johnston said, “The bottom line is that companies must make it a priority to value the needs of all publics, and to forge good relationships with them. The cornerstone of a good relationship is trust, and trust is based on open and honest communication. Effective public relations tells a company’s story in a way that is accurate, honest, and easy to understand, helping to establish a reputation for credibility.”
Good public relations develops strong relationships. And strong relationships are built through honesty and trust. And a trusting relationship leads publics to accept good reputations, which leads to success. And isn’t that the goal of every corporation?
Little did our lawyer know he could achieve success with a little help from public relations.