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Managing Public Opinion: The Importance of Public Relations

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At one time, public opinion was a largely uncontrollable phenomenon that had the power to make – or break – a company’s reputation and potential for success. While the influence of public opinion is as strong as ever, the practice of public relations has given savvy businesses measured control over how they are perceived by their target audiences and the general public.  Businesses and organizations that understand their target audiences and implement a multi-faceted public relations strategy to reach them will boost their brand reputations, referrals, and profit margins.

The psychology behind public relations makes it more valuable than advertising in developing brand identity and garnering brand loyalty. Consumers know that companies pay for placed ads and commercial spots, but place more esteem on communications from these firms in the forms of earned media, featured articles, events, and community sponsorships. According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations “…is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action.”

Truly, the primary function of public relations practice is the development of relationships with target audiences. This can only be achieved once the preferences, needs, and desires of these audiences have been fully researched and understood. This research serves as the foundation for messaging that resonates with audiences and public relations strategies that deliver positive business-to-consumer relationships.

A quality public relations strategy is outlined in a plan that includes a market and target audience analysis, key messaging, and tactics. These tactics should be defined by their benefits to the brand, visibility, or profitability of the business or organization, and must be tailored to the unique needs of the business and its target audience(s). Public relations tactics may include any combination of: whitepapers, case studies, broadcast and radio interview opportunities, feature articles, press releases, media list development, letters to the editor, op-eds, event planning and coverage, community sponsorships, RSS feeds, webinars, speaking opportunities, and award nominations. Long-term plans should also include a crisis communications component.

Upon plan execution, it is prudent for spokespeople to engage in media training for message solidification and preparation for print and media interviews. To ensure connectivity with target audiences and improve plan outcomes, all plan tactics must be consistently measured and evaluated.

The execution of a customized public relations strategy is an essential investment toward the achievement of long-term business goals. By providing opportunities for businesses and organizations to engage with target audiences via the news media and community events, public relations practices deliver results that achieve top-of-mind awareness among consumers. This leads to brand credibility and reputation-building that consumers view as earned – securing brand loyalty that is unsurpassed by the sole purchase of ad spots.

On February 15, 2012
By Jessica Chabot

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