By Prabhat Kishore
In simple terms Public Relation (P.R.) means a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its public. The emphasis on words ‘deliberate, planned and sustained’ implies that to be successful, P.R. activities should be planned in detail and implemented on a continuing basis rather than by a hit and miss method. It also envisages two-way communication to resolve conflicts of interests for promoting correct understanding and appreciation of the work of a particular organization. This understanding for a lasting effect, has to be based on truth, knowledge and full information.
Sometimes Public Relation is bracketed with propaganda and liaison work meaning there by that a public relations officer is meant for gaining some out of the way advantage of favour for the organization. The function of propaganda is not to convert or make people accept an idea after evaluating if properly and being confirmed by its logical presentation. Propaganda seeks to create followers and keep them in line. Propaganda does not call for ethical conduct. A man indulging in propaganda, to suit his purpose, can destroy the facts or even falsify them. Publicity is also a one-way affair. Sometimes it is taken to be synonymous with a ‘gimmick’ or a ‘stunt’. In any case, it is one-way affair in which the reason of the receipting audience is not always considered important. In fact, there is a saying that ‘publicity keels public relations’.
In the new social order, a P.R. functionary is not only responsible for informing or communicating, but also make himself and the organization for which he works, accountable to the concerned publics for which he says. The word ‘publics’ is being used here advisedly. It has to be clearly understood that there is not one public, but ‘publics’ to be dealt with common interest group of people like opinion leaders of society employees of an industrial organization and consumer using its products or the shareholders. In many cases, the number of persons constituting the ‘concerned public’ in respect to an organization becomes so large that they can be described as masses. A P.R. functionary, therefore, has to take recourse to the mass media for reaching out to people. That apart, in the contemporary would generally, and in a democratic set up specially media by itself is potent force-an important public in its own right being the opinion leaders of the society. So, for a P.R. man the mass media is both a tool as well as target.
The target audience for a P.R. man can be put into three categories: (1) Those who know you and like you, (2) Those who know you and do not like you, and (3) Those who neither know you nor case.
The idea is to reach a position where those who know you and like you stay that way; where those who know you and do not like you change their opinion; and those who neither know you nor case wish they could meet you and do business with you. In which case you are enjoying good public relations? That is the idea of every public relations person and is achieved through effective communications. To be welcomed in, understood and remembered, a message must be designed for, (1) The mental needs, (2) desires and (3) limitations of the audience.
Four wings of PR
There are four activities similar to Public Relations-Publicity, Advertising, Propaganda and Lobbying.
‘Publicity’ is often taken as synonymous with public relations. Publicity is just reporting day-to-day activity, but that is not public relation. It is one-way process. For example, the government may talk of law and order today and the next the problem may concern the relief measures being provided to flood victims. On other occasion the government may be reporting about the steps taken to improve agricultural yield. So, all this is day-to-day reporting. But public relation stands for complete and comprehensive range of activities for projecting the organization as a whole and not in parts.
‘Advertising’ is the paid form of non-personal presentation and is the communication of message about an idea, a product or a service by an identified sponsor to a specified audience with the object of eliciting a desired response. Any communication that satisfied the dictates of the last sentence is advertising. Thus a puppet play that communicates a message on sanitation of a village audience or the speech of a great orator at a public meeting is as much advertising as a Doordarshan spot, a hoarding or a press aid.
The way to judge advertising is to judge it for innovativeness in the manner in which it does it and for its ability to elicit the desired the response from the defined target audience. Advertising gives us too many choices. It is resorted to for selling and buying both. It is not total public relation, but a tool of public relation.
‘Propaganda’-means a committee of cardinals or an association for propagation of a doctrine. It is on record that ‘Pope Gregory 14th set up an institution for spreading the message of the Bible. Again in the 17th century, a college of propaganda was set up by the Roman Catholic Church for counteracting the activities of the Protestants and this organization was called Institute of Propaganda.
Actually, propaganda initially was not considered a bad word. In fact, it was during the 2nd world war only when the word ‘Propaganda’ assumed a bad connotation. Gobbles used to say that to change an environment to absorb whatever was said and one was free to distort facts or even falsify to effective ends. So propaganda has come to mean publicity not necessarily related to realities. There is no place for such an activity in PR.
“Lobbying” involves educating selected groups of public more intensely to get their support. A lobbyist is more like an advocate holding brief for the organization in states. In USA, lobbying is a legal activity which has been brought under the purview of the federal law. In the Senate and Congress of USA, lobbyist has to register themselves under this federal law. In Russia (former USSR), lobbying is not resorted to forgetting support of government functionaries. But in different organization, cells are created which are managed by an individual who is designated as an ‘agitator’. His job is to lobby among the people, who work with forgetting their support to policies and programmes to parties and governments.
Summing up, Public Relation can be defined as a managerial function which evaluates public aptitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an organization with the public interest, and evaluates a programme of action and communication to earn public understanding and acceptance. The correct Public Relation strategy is to : (1) Inform, (2) Educate, and (3) Persuade, through effective communication and create understanding and obtain the willing co-operation of the public.
(Author is a technocrat and educationist. He studied Journalism and Mass Communication at Patna University)