Tuesday, December 06, 2005

That thing you do

Viewed as a professional endeavor, public relations is most often defined as the management function that seeks to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization, commercial or non-commercial, and the audiences or "publics" on which the success of these entities depends. These publics may include any of several possible constituencies: customers, investors, employees, suppliers, legislators, competitors, government officials and other "influentials."
Working within the context of the prevailing public opinion, laws, politics and societal norms of the country or countries in which they work, public relations practitioners develop programs and craft messages aimed at creating favorable support for the goals of the organizations they represent. Obtaining significant, positive news and feature coverage in the print and broadcast media is a key objective.Unlike advertising or marketing, with which it is often confused, professional public relations is more "soft sell" than "hard sell." It emphasizes information and persuasion as opposed to packaging and paid media, diplomacy as opposed to force. Owing to its subtleties, it is occasionally viewed as "propaganda" or, in more current jargon, "spin," the intentional manipulation of public opinion without regard for what is accurate or true.
Although professional public relations has certainly been misused from time to time, its record of historical achievement suggests a much deeper and abiding respect for and adherence to openness and honesty in its dealings and communications. Public relations blossomed as a professional endeavor in the 20th Century, most conspicuously in the United States, but its roots, both philosophical and pragmatic, can be traced throughout civilization.


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