Term Paper: Functions of Public Relations

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PR Analysis

An Explanation of the Organizational and Societal Functions of Public Relations Today

The importance of effective public relations has been well documented (Cutlip, 1994). Most public relations companies engage in a wide range of functions to accomplish their goals, and these can be characterized as being either societal or organizational functions. To this end, this paper provides an explanation of the organizational and societal functions of selected public relations feature, followed by an assessment of what similarities and differences exist between these public relations functions. A summary of the research and salient findings are provided in the conclusion.

Communications management.

In the Age of Information, this aspect of public relations is clearly an organizational function. In fact, because they all consist of people, virtually all types of enterprises must regard communications management as an organizational function. In this regard, a number of public relations companies specialize in communications management to help their major clientele achieve more effective use of their in-house resources. For example, according to Varey (2001), "Organizational communications management can be conceived as a core business competence. Communication is necessary for organizations to effect requisite collective work - through cooperation, experimentation and shared learning" (p. 203). This author also makes the point that communications management is integral of a public relations company's responsibilities to its clientele and represents a fundamental management function (Varey, 2001).

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Balmer and Greyser (2003) suggest that communications management is an important organizational function because it is a company's responsibility to communicate with its stakeholders: "Communications activities generally should be rooted in the company's culture. Identity, communication, and image need to be coordinated. Moreover, communications management should be undertaken not only because it makes good business sense but because companies have a moral duty to communicate: it is a question of integrity" (emphasis added) (p. 154).

Media Relations.

This aspect of public relations is one of its most important. "Because of the powerful effects that the media have in shaping public opinion nationally and internationally," Sriramesh and Vercic (2003) advise, "public relations professionals have given primacy to media relations" (p. 13). According to Elwood (1995), this component of public relations is an inherently societal function. "The agenda-setting power of the media is well documented," he advises, and "With multiple sources of data, a more complete picture of an organization's image and how it is created and maintained can be derived" (p. 83). From the perspective of Sriramesh and Vercic (2003), the majority of public relations professionals today would likely agree that media relations represents for a substantial percentage of their public relations efforts because they wish to use the media for publicity purposes; however, these authors emphasize that, "Public relations professionals also serve the media by providing them with information subsidies" (p. 11). Likewise, in his book, Making It in Public Relations: An Insider's Guide to Career Opportunities, Mogel (2002) reports that, "Media relations is one of the dominant functions of public relations. Its basic role is the origination of press information and the handling of requests from the media about their subject areas and activities. In sum, the importance of media relations to a corporation is that the media is the customer, and the product or service is the news" (pp. 14-5). In fact, media relations is an integral part of the societal function of public relations companies today. For example, Dozier, Grunig and Grunig (2002) point out that, "Excellent public relations managers possess technical expertise or have it available to them -- especially technical knowledge in media relations" (p. 23).

Employee relations.

By any measure, employee relations must be considered an organizational function of a public relations company. This essential human resource function is common to any type of organization, of course, and public relations firms are no exception. According to Somerick (1993), there are also some societal effects that can relate to how well a public relations company manages its employee relations function:

An organization must realize that employees are its most important public. They are on the job eight hours a day, but for the other 16 hours they are interacting with other publics that are also important to the organization. Therefore, if employees are not treated fairly and consistently and with dignity and respect, they will not have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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