This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations 11th Ed. (Newsom et al.) Chapter 1 Summary

So I’m going to study Public Relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications in July and I’m getting an early start on the homework by reading This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, which is apparently the standard introductory textbook for the profession. I’ll be sharing some notes on this text and others as I wade my way into public relations. Feel free to add any comments you may have below.

This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, 11th Edition

This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, 11th Edition

Chapter 1- Major Points

“All public relations should exist to preserve a consistent reputation and build relationships” – Robert I Wakefield

International Consistency of PR Practice:

Despite differences in the social, economic and political climates in difference countries there is an increasing general acceptance on what constitutes public relations.

Lucien Matrat, author of public relations’ international code of ethics writes “Public relations…forms part of the strategy of management. Its function is twofold: to respond to the expectations of those whose behaviour, judgements and opinions can influence the operation and development of an enterprise, and in turn to motivate them… Establishing public relations policies means, first and foremost, harmonizing the interest of an enterprise with the interests of those on whom its growth depends.”

The PR practitioner

  • serves as an intermediary between the organization that he/she represents and all of that organization’s stakeholders
  • sets organizational politics which affects its stakeholders
  • distributes information that enables the institutions’ publics to understand the policies,
  • adjusts policies in response to feedback from those stakeholders
PR involves
  • research on stakeholders
    • receiving info from them
    • advising management on their attitudes
    • helping set polities that demonstrates attention to them
Although the book claims a 2013 copyright, the definition of PR by The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is already outdated. Public relations, according to PRSA, is”a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”Career, Job (Field) or ProfessionThere is disagreement on whether or not PR is a profession due to ambiguities on whether it meets three criterion:

  1. Command over a body of knowledge.
    1. PRSA has developed such a body but it applies in the US only and “has been criticized by the International Public Relations Association for its parochialism” (3).
    2. General acceptance of a standard educational curriculum.
      1. This which exists to a degree in the US but may be difference elsewhere, where education in PR is growing rapidly.
    3. Control over entry and exit
      1. Guidelines set by PRSA membership exist but are not mandatory to ‘practice’ public relations
Sustainability, Governance, Management, Internal Communication, External Communication, and Coordination of Internal and External Communications.
The three basic roles of a PR practitioner 
  1. Staff Member
    1. In smaller organizations they may be responsible for all PR
    2. Large organizations may pay outside firms for services (research, comm. audits, etc)
      1. Commercial and Large Nonprofit Organizations
        1. Due to tech, # of lower jobs have decreased and middle management has grown while senior levels remain consistent
      2. Government
        1. Jobs vary widely from the equivalents of publicist to VP Communication
  2. Firm/Agency Employees
    1. Depending on firm size there may be specialists in different areas.
  3. Independent Practitioners/Counselor
    1. Works in advisory role for consultant’s fee commiserate with value of knowledge and experience
Fields of Specialization: Nonprofit Organizations, Fundraising or Donor Relations, Research: Trend Analysis, Issues Management, and Public Opinion Evaluation, International PR for Organizations and Firms, Financial PR or Investor Relations, Industry General Business or Retail PR, Government (Federal/State/Local, NGO Government Relations, Political PR, Lobbying), Health Care, Sports, Leisure Time
Functions of PR in Business and Society
3 Traditional Views
Public Relations
  1. serves to control publics, by directing what people think or do to satisfy the needs or desires of an institution (manipulative)*
  2. responds to publics- reacting to developments, problems or the initiatives of others (service)*
  3. achieves mutually beneficial relationships among all the publics that an institution has (transactional)*
*As described by Harvard business professor Stephen A. Greyser
Typologies: Manager vs. Technician
Managers self-describe as having much more autonomy than technicians
 Michael Ryan – “public relations persons would do well to seek out participative environments and to avoid authoritarian environments” Really? That’s quote-worthy?
PR as Counsel for Social Responsibility
Hazel Handerson- Normal pattern of business response to social issues:
  1. Ignore the problem
  2. If publicity calls widespread attention to the problem, admit its existence but present business as a victim of circumstances it cannot alter
  3. When the public takes the problem to lawmakers, lobby, testify in legislative hearing and advertise to get opinion leaders to believe that the proposed solutions constitute government interference in the private economy
  4. After new regulations are final, announce that business can live with them
Moving from defensive strategies to being held to account for social issues. (See Edelman’s Social Purpose practice)
The chapter goes in to much further detail and serves as an excellent introduction to the field. I’ll be posting more (if shorter) notes on future readings.

Note: excerpts and analysis of this text are fair use in that they constitute a “reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson“.

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About Geoff Campbell

Geoff Campbell is an Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing at American University.

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