1. How do the historical foundations of public relations apply to current day news? Please share some examples.
Traditionally, the foundations of public relations is rooted in “the management of communication between an organization and its publics.” This is achieved through a variety of means such as press releases, press conferences, media interviews etc. These methods of grabbing the attention of the media and the general public use news angles as a bait - something that interests audiences and give reporters a hook.
Let’s take Singapore home grown bubble tea brand, LiHo, as an example. Founded by the owner of Gong Cha, the bold move to replace Gong Cha islandwide with a start-up brand, LiHo was deemed as a bold move by many. However, through a new range of teas such as cheese teas and smoothies, the brand became the talk of the town. Hence, finding a strong news angle and pitching it to the media was crucial in setting the foundation of a successful public relations campaign.
Through this example, it is clear that the historical foundations of public relations still remain. Companies need to go back to the basic and analyse their business strategies to run a successful public relations/marketing campaign.
2. How might the role of public relations fit within a larger marketing campaign?
Primarily, the function of public relations lies in building and managing good relations between an organisation and its various publics. This ranges from media relations to crisis management.
With media relations, the company is able to maximise positive coverage through mass media without paying for it directly through advertising. This no doubt extends the marketing budget and is especially useful, considering media coverage is often viewed as one of the more credible source of information by consumers. On the other hand, should something go wrong, crisis management is what helps to remedy the situation and possibly salvage the company’s reputation.
The main issue with many marketing campaigns today is the inability to identify the larger, more integral role of public relations in relation to marketing campaigns. PR and marketing are viewed as two independent functions when in reality, they should be tightly integrated in order for the company to achieve its objectives and maximise its capabilities. Without a skilled PR team, not only is the company unable to achieve ideal media coverage, but the company’s reputation may also suffer. When that happens, sales and revenue generated drop. Public relations should therefore not only be a part of a marketing campaign, but the core of any business strategy.
3. How do you think developments in social media are impacting the field of public relations?
With the advent of the internet and social media, we are more connected than ever. The developments in social media is definitely impacting public relations in its various functions. This impact can be positive or negative, depending on how we view it.
For one, social media has expanded the field of public relations. The term ‘influencer’ is highly popularised and by now, everyone is very much familiar with the term. Basically, ‘influencers’ are individuals with an amassed audience - be it followers or subscribers - who they influence and impact through social media. Companies engage these individuals in advertising, by promoting their products through sponsorships and such. As it is a relatively new trend, I would consider it as a form of public relations, rather than advertising. Hence, a positive impact of developments in social media would be the expansion and growth of the public relations field.
On the flip side, the internet allows individuals to generate their own news 24/7. Such user generated content can potentially make or break a company’s reputation. These impacts can be long lasting. The actions taken by company’s public relations team is therefore critical, and crisis management comes into play. At such a juncture, the team needs to get control, gather information and communicate early and often to the affected stakeholders. Needless to say, the team must bear in mind that business must continue and plans need be made to avoid future crises. Otherwise, even more effort will have to be put in to regain the consumers’ confidence and trust in the company.