Reputation and Publicity in the media: PR tools free of charge
The relationship between the media and the PR industry is a multifaceted and progressively symbiotic one. The media is the central “reservoir” for much of the PR industry's messages. PR practitioners want to place their stories in the news or other publications maintaining the direct communication with the public. On the other hand, the media has become more dependent on PR in order to source content to fill “air” time or lines in the press.
According to Corporate Watch’s research (2003) there are several PR tools which supply content and material into the media. Press, video and audio releases are the most common PR tools for the publicity of an organization, an activity or event. The press releases provide publishable articles that journalists can publish with no corrections or changes, e.g. the same article appearing in different media forms, signed by different journalists each time with no changes. Especially the newspapers obtain such content from press agencies such as: Reuters or the Press Association, as well as from the PR agencies. The video and audio releases supplied by the same PR sources, are necessary for the covering of extra “air” time in news broadcasting in television radio and wed TV.
The relationship between journalists and PR practitioners is both cooperative and tense and suggests a double negotiation over the exchange of resources, and over the rules underpinning this interchange. The part of cooperation outcomes from the nature of the relationship between the two practitioners. Journalists need news material and sources of information and events in order to produce news, stories and TV programs. On the other hand, all the sources that journalists use are represented or directed by PR experts, who aim to get their material into the media with the most cost-effective way reaching their audiences.
This dependence is even more vital for the PR practitioners whose success at work requires the distribution of information about the source they represent into the media arena. The interdependence between PR practitioners and journalists is based on mutual interest exchange. But, PR specialists changed the news “agenda-settings” by their involvement in public news production. This had as a consequence a more struggling "political" dimension for control over news making to be added to the "economic" dimension of exchange of resources. The recommended solution for the harmonization and alignment of this mutual relationship may be the negotiation of two professional groups taking into account the ethical codes which characterize both public service professions and the value to the society as described previously.
It is remarkable the fact that journalists are interested in reporting about the products which PR practitioners represent and not only the CSR activities. It is more often the presentation of brands and products in a news story and not in an advertisement. Even a product's color is questioned in news stories, e.g. the case of the white iPhone where some journalists have commented that was more beige than a white device.
So, why PR practitioners are so interested in transforming their material into a news story format? The answer is that PR is much more resourceful than advertising. A PR executive sells far more product through news stories and that's what PR practitioners do for their clients today: they get their products into the media and the social media. This “product journalism” could be also considered as a tool for PR practitioners with which can artfully drain off material into the media industry without any cost. Many mainstream newspapers and magazines promote and increase their product news, while many reporters struggle to be the first to write up the product specs of a new device or a forthcoming mobile application. This new trend which combines the Public Relations’ publicity and reputation task with the news stories which journalists produce is a consequence of the development of new technologies and the convergence over the communications sector.
Subsequently, the development of technologies and the establishment of new media and especially the Internet brought changes in Public Relation area of interest too. The arena of PR practice has changed with new media bringing about considerable increases in stakeholder strength through simplifying communication within stakeholder groups. The Internet gave PR practitioners the chance to collect information, monitor public opinion and have a direct dialogue with their publics via the various chat rooms and blogs,upgrading the symmetrical model of communication and the excellence of Public Relations.The new media landscape has given to anyone the ability to create channels of communication and conversation without the need of a media mediator. This is a new challenge and opportunity for Public Relations as a unique communication area to be placed more noticeably as an independent voice. The technological development could also lead the PR practitioners to obtain a more journalistic role in future, appearing more advantageous for both the organizations via the supplied services and the public via fruitful CSR initiatives.
“Nike’s” campaign: a case study
A case study that could be used in order to be underlined the cost-effectiveness of a PR campaign based on the use of new technologies is the example of “Nike”, the world famous sportswear company. “Nike” is known for using guerrilla marketing tactics to win the public interest from its competitors. This strategy followed during the London Olympic Games in summer 2012 and did manage to outshine the official sponsor of Olympics, the “Adidas” company, implementing a massive CSR campaign around the city.
“Nike” used the social media to promote a social campaign combining both the notions of humanity and Olympic spirit. The PR executives decided to avoid the usual celebrity endorsements and promote a campaign instead, in which athletes who participated in the Olympics, either were winners or not, were celebrated every day in the majority of social media, while enjoying the interaction of the public.
“Nike” bought up hundreds of billboards around the city featuring the hashtag #findgreatness. There were more than 16,000 tweets following “Nike” with the word Olympic in only one week, while “Adidas” was limited in 9,295 tweets. Additionally, “Nike” attracted 166,718 new Facebook page fans during the Olympics, while its competitor gained only 80,761. At the end of the Games, “Nike” had achieved a 6% growth in its number of Facebook fans and a 77% improvement in visitors on its Facebook page compared to 2% and 59% accordingly for “Adidas”. Indeed, that public relations campaign got “Nike’s” messages into the global media without paying for it and serving the public good by promoting the everyday effort of athletes and rewarding their participation in the Olympic Games.
PR & CSR is an unseen power
The analysis of theoretical background and social impact of Public Relations leads to the conclusion that Public Relations in practice is not like doing science, despite the fact that PR practitioners use scientific methods and strategies for the implementation of their projects.
“Public Relations” is an unseen power and its practitioners must be reflective and thoughtful in how they plan and perform their professional skills. The power of Public Relations on the news “agenda settings” as described above shows clearly the influence of PR practitioners in shaping the news either via the projects which carry out or through the value of organizations, products or individuals they represent.
But, this power should be channeled based on an ethical code, which shapes the values of PR professionals. The task for PR practitioners is to certify that the promoted ideas and practices become recognized and understood by the public, gaining the hegemonic advantage for their clients and also serving the public good.This is the point where CSR comes to be integrated into the organization’s strategic perspective. The CSR is an interrelated part of Public Relations, necessary for all businesses since it is based on the “Triple Bottom Line” system which includes economic, social and environmental responsibilities for the PR strategy.
CSR represents the wider spectrum of a company’s corporate culture. The values, the social character and attitudes of a company play a vital role in shaping the public opinion, creating a specific image to the public. This is the reason why CSR today is a separate subdivision is the Public Relations departments in the structure of the majority of large corporations.
Public Relations has a very close relationship with the media industry. It is the most cost effective way to make businesses familiar to the public through media PR tools such as: press releases, CSR activities and the usage of social media. The above mentioned case study based on “Nike’s” PR campaign through social media during the Olympics in 2012 is a strong example of the power that social media can play in the reputation and publicity of a company with the lowest budget it could be available. This new form of communication is rising at such a quick pace, while moving Public Relations in a digital direction. PR practitioners are those who need to understand this transformation and adapt the new technologies in order to communicate much more effectively.
On the other hand, the development of the technology and its adaptation by the mass media signaled a new area for Public Relations. The globalization of information, the digitization and convergence of technology made Public Relations to be automatically advanced. Anyone with a computer linked to the Internet has the ability to publish information for potential global consumption and it is obvious that the internet is “updating” many sides of Public Relations research and practices based on “no budget” campaigns.