The New Public Relations

It is well known that Marketing Management is comprised of the four elements of the “Marketing Mix”, namely Product, Price, Distribution, and Promotion, the latter being better described nowadays by the term Communication. The activities that shape each of these elements form a “Mix”, therefore an organization’s marketing is comprised of the Product Mix, the Pricing Mix, the Distribution Mix and the Communication Mix.

The Communication Mix involves activities grouped under the types of Advertising, Public Relations, Sales Promotion and Personal Selling. Up to now, Advertising was the biggest star of the four, mainly because the three major communications media that a business could use to send messages to the audience, Television, Radio, and the Press (either in the form of newspapers or in that of magazines) have high production costs and therefore demand more attention and more resources from the company.

But for the past twenty years, there’s a new medium that has changed the balance in the Communication Mix, and that’s the Internet. The major difference that the Internet brought in the process of business communication is, of course, its interactivity, meaning the ability that it gives for the audience to respond and create its own messages. Now, the audience, or better – due to the advent of interactivity – the public, has the ability to express its opinion about a business and its offerings, potentially elevating each of its members to the role of spokesperson for the organization, either the organization likes it or not.

In spite of the fact that in the early form of the Internet, businesses used it as another medium for advertising, mostly through the use of advertising banners and search ads, nowadays, in the new Communications Mix, the Internet is being used mostly for public-generated content, hence the element of Public Relations becomes more important than ever. Thankfully, though, businesses now have a lot of means of communicating with their various publics, again due to the continuous development of the Internet and its technologies.

The first and most important, tool remains, in spite of the growing popularity of social media, the company’s website. The website is the first point of contact that the organization has with its employees, customers, suppliers, and the members of the community in which it operates, and is, and should be, the billboard where all the organization’s announcements should appear first. For example, in the eyes of the public, a product or offering doesn’t exist if it’s not featured on the company’s website, in spite of the possibility that the offering might be advertised with web-banners, on the radio, or even the TV. To paraphrase the known saying regarding Google and its search: “If it ain’t on the company’s website, it doesn’t exist…”

Then comes the email. The email is the modern equivalent of the very essence of communication which is the message. The email, as a form of a message, is so strong that even in courts of law is widely accepted as an official statement of the organization’s actions or the purposes behind them.

And finally, there are the social media. These tools for user-generated content rapidly became major platforms where the members of the various publics express their opinions that can make or break an organization. If the buzz in social media is positive, the company’s doing it right, if it’s negative then heads are gonna roll.

The modern Public Relations manager, whose role is often described with such terms as “Manager”, “Associate”, “Specialist”, or “Coordinator”, is the one responsible for using these tools, not only to send the organization’s messages to the public, but also to receive all messages towards it, and sense public opinion. Because, now, after many years of a largely unilateral communication, the company should have not only a mouth but also an eye and an ear for its stakeholders’ thoughts, opinions, and actions.

And sensing the precious other’s needs and wants is always the hardest part in a relationship.

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