The Metamorphosis of PR Companies
Public relations, or PR, companies affect communication between an individual or organization and their public. The primary means of accomplishing this is through a variety of media (traditional and online) used for the purposes of directing publicity, supporting marketing efforts, and managing public awareness and perception of the client’s image.
About the Industry
Press releases are often the first things that come to mind when speaking of PR companies, but these are only a small part of the PR firm’s responsibilities. Most delegate key personnel to specific areas of expertise, known as practice areas. These employees, referred to as public relations specialists, handle a multitude of responsibilities along with media, such as employee-investor relations, conflict mediation, and interest group representation. Put simply, they act as the liaison between their clients and the client’s community, employees, investors, and the general public.
Online and Social Media PR
The meteoric rise of online media has made an immeasurable impact on how individuals and the corporate world markets their products, brand promises, and how they are perceived by the public. Like other businesses, PR companies have had to shift their focus to adapt to these rapid and myriad changes, and redirect more of their resources to attain, and maintain, a social media presence for both themselves and their clients. As a result, savvy PR specialists have learned to use technology to build buzz and communicate with trending audiences.
Consumer Lifestyle PR
Companies that specialize in this area of public relations are those who have invested considerable resources in an effort to understand consumer lifestyles, and possess expertise in motivating consumers through various lifestyle PR, brand PR, traditional media, and social media. These firms specialize in orchestrating the launch of a new product or service as well as revitalizing or stimulating buzz about previously established brands. They can design and implement campaigns for an increase in brand recognition, or optimize public sensitivity about good faith practices.
These firms, or practice area of a firm, focus on areas of investments and other related financial matters, such as interpretation of and compliance with SEC regulations, along with disclosure agreements and other government regulations. They are also concerned with the careful cultivation of a positive public image in regard to all their financial dealings. To this end, many of these companies or practitioners consist of lawyers and other legal experts whose experience includes public offerings, insider trading, proxy solicitation, and takeovers.
Government PR and Lobby Groups
PR specialists who work for the government are responsible for relaying information to the public about events and occupations of public agencies and officials. These individuals may be referred to as information officers, press secretaries, or public affairs specialists. Lobby groups are established for the specific purpose of swaying opinion or influencing policy to the advantage of a special interest. Some examples of these groups are pharmaceutical companies, the tobacco industry, oil and energy companies, and foreign governments.
Industry and Crisis PR
Many industries use PR specialists for the sole purpose of representing industry interests with various governments and the public. However, some of the larger and more powerful industries use PR companies to soft-pedal facts, and provide misinformation in the way of “spin.” At no time is this practice more prevalent than when a crisis erupts, such as the BP Gulf oil debacle, or the tragic earthquake and resultant nuclear reactor issues in Japan. It is ironic that prior to this incident, both pro-nuclear groups and President Obama alluded to Japan as a paradigm for nuclear safety.
Most individuals and businesses are keenly aware of the value of implementing and maintaining positive relationships with the public. Public perception has a crucial impact on reputations and can even affect profits and stock prices. PR companies are a vital link to that public, and can be an integral component of an organization’s success.