Defining Public Relations is as arduous a task as combining the opinions of specialists of the trade about their duties. There are multiple ways to understand it, to practice it; the argument about whether it is a marketing communication tool or a science in and of itself, or whether it is a specialty contained within Communication Sciences, is old, but if there is a consensus on one opinion, it is in relation to its usefulness to the institution’s or the company’s day-to-day activities.
Public Relations is understood as an institution’s systematic, coherent and planned form of communication to improve its relationships with different audiences, the fundamental purpose of which is to increase the popularity index and prestige of the institution, thereby contributing to creating a sound institutional image. The audiences of an organization are as diverse as the organizations themselves, but some of the most common are workers, customers, suppliers, means of communication, competitors, political decision-makers, opinion leaders and the community, among others. It is very important to characterize each of these audiences; to know their codes, tastes, habits and needs, in the hopes of establishing a fruitful communication that ultimately will yield dividends for the organization.
Among the functions of Public Relations are establishing a constant two-way communication flow between the organization and its audiences to develop a relationship based on credibility and trust; to ensure that there is a strong sense of collaboration and of belonging in the internal audience (workers); to establish general guidelines of corporate identity and to ensure their correct application; to participate in the introduction of new products, services or projects, as well as to receive, process and help resolve such complaints as may arise concerning the organization.
The actions planned must be part of a PR strategy or campaign, they must never be isolated or disjointed efforts whereas, otherwise, they will not yield the desired results. Some actions that may be carried out include organizing contests geared at customers; sending greeting cards to internal and external audiences on dates that are relevant for them; managing the institution’s web pages and social networks; dealing directly with the media and with journalists in particular; organizing corporate events with various ends; giving gifts, recognitions and awards to opinion leaders, who are those persons who, due to their prestige or social standing, will positively or negatively influence the opinion of our target audiences.
But, how to put these ideas into practice in small and medium-size enterprises? Is it possible to develop PR campaigns and strategies in our context? Must I necessarily have in my business a specialist on the subject matter? These are probably the three most pressing questions for the entrepreneur reading these lines. Of course, most of our businesses do not have sufficient resources to hire a person who will assume PR or communication duties exclusively, much less may we think about the possibility of having such an area or department; however, these duties could be part of the director’s job description or of someone else’s in the management team. The important thing here is not who will be doing it, but rather how it is done.
Some of the elements that we must not overlook in carrying out PR management in our context include: never performing isolated actions but rather incorporating them into a PR strategy (*) or campaign (**); defining the communication objectives being pursued; designing an effective plan of action based on the audiences we wish to reach and the budget available. With regards to the media, identify and utilize those that are most accessible to the target audiences; have the capacity to generate news-worthy events in order that they may attract media attention in and of themselves, for example, activities with children or grandparents who live in the community; exploit, where feasible, alternative media such as blogs or El Paquete Semanal [The Weekly Package] and create convincing messages that will have a favorable impact on the listener.
In summary, properly managing the company’s PR will contribute to showing its best side; will provide the company with a personality while allowing customers to put a face to their business relationships; will contribute to strengthening brand positioning and will increase the effectiveness of the messages sent. We have a great challenge before us, but if we overcome it, much good fortune will await us in our business future.
(*) Planned for a period of time of one to two years; it must fulfill a strategic vision.
(**) Carried out at relevant moments during the year (the company’s anniversary; dates that are important for the company or for the public, such as Mother’s Day, summer vacations or New Year's). It lasts less time, generally around three months.