Marketing Medicine: What is the role of Public Relations?
AW asks: What is the role of PR - public relations?
does such a person act as a conduit, a liaison officer between
customers and the company? Does he attend to queries of customers - and
portray the good image of a firm. Does he help to make a product more
saleable? Can a thriving business concern dispense with the role of PR.
What's the role of PR where in the modern era industries are producing
goods/brands on a massive scale?
Lots of good questions here AW. I would define Public Relations as
the practice of shaping relationships with the public. And as with all
marketing activities, it begins with defining whom your public is. This
can range from quite distant groups like Government and other
influencers in society, to very intimate publics like your own
workforce. In between, as you say, come the publics who buy, or who may
soon buy, your products. A big enterprise or cause may have several
different publics, and will then need to prioritise and segment PR
efforts. Interestingly, in Kenya there has historically been less PR
effort applied to consumers than to other publics. But this is changing
rapidly as consumers gain a more active voice through the Internet. In
the past it was possible to ignore letters of complaint; but negative
comments on blogs are ticking time bombs that must be defused.
Relations should not be confused with Media Relations, which is the
practice of dealing with editors and journalists in order to shape
their perceptions of a business. In Kenya this was historically about
‘killing’ negative stories. But as the journalistic profession has
improved its ethical standards and quality of writing, the elimination
of bad news stories has become a far less absolute science. PR
professionals now concentrate on building relationships with editorial
teams. Based less on lunches and other incentives, and more on passing
positive information when times are good, and being an honest broker
when times are bad.
answer your two remaining questions: no, I don't think the role of a
PR person is to face the music with consumers. That responsibility lies
with the CEO. The
CEO and PR person must identify closely with one another. If there is
a change in CEO, there is usually a requirement for a new PR person -
because the CEO needs him to be his adviser and interpreter. And
finally the more successful your business, the more likely you are to
need a PR resource. Your presence in the market will be larger, and
your exposure to episodes of success or failure greater.
LA writes: Digital LED screens versus traditional billboards: In terms of effectiveness to reach target audience, which would you advise Client to go for and why?
Chris answers: LA, you just know what I am going to say. It depends on your target audience!
However let me add a comment about outdoor impact. We have far too many traditional billboards in Nairobi, and they are dispersed in a cluttered and undisciplined way, which reduces the individual impact of any one site. Against this backdrop, the digital screens have greater impact, but I really don't think they should be allowed to distract drivers at busy intersections. Mark my words, we will soon have a fatality outside the new Karen Mall attributable to the very impactful screen there. Outside Nairobi I wish we had more choice of outdoor advertising sites. And more competitors in the marketplace.
Chris Harrison is a marketing and advertising practitioner of 30 years’ standing. From Nairobi, he leads Y&R’s network in Sub Saharan Africa. He’s ready to prescribe answers to your marketing questions, and you can consult him on www.chrisharrison.biz