Blog Archives

Introduction to public relations

The study of public relations covers many facets, from theory, to the strategic, to the tactical. Yet, in many instances each aspect can inform or be linked to others. The aim of this essay is to focus on a specific facet of public relations and describe its importance and relevance for successful contemporary public relations. In doing so, this writer would be gaining a better understanding of the topic, and therefore, be better positioned to become a more successful public relations professional.

In order to get a better understanding of the relationship between corporate social responsibility and public relations, it is very important to define and explain both of these concepts. Public relations can be defined as “the management of communication between an organisation and its publics” (Grunig & Hunt 1984, p. 6). Similarly, Cutlip, Center & Broom (2006) explains public relations to be “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends” (p. 6). The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a little bit more difficult to define, as illustrated by Wadell, Devine, Jones and George (2007) who explains it as being “an evolving term without a recognised set of specific criteria and as such it does not have a standard definition” (p. 174). However, an indication of what the concept involves is presented by Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter (2003) who discuss social responsibility as a term to mean “an obligation, beyond that required by law and economics, for a firm to pursue long term goals that are good for society” (p. 138). So it can be assumed that corporate social responsibility will be the social responsibility that is expected from an organisation. It would require the organisation to focus beyond its economic and legal objectives, but to also act ethically and be a good corporate citizen by contributing to society.

The definition of both these concepts, particularly that which is provided by Cutlip, Center & Broom (2006, p. 6) makes it clear that corporate public relations involves considerably more than simply communication between an organisation and its publics. As Long & Hazelton (1987) explain, public relations are a communication function through which “organisations adapt to, alter, or maintain their environment for the purpose of achieving organisational goals”. This requires the public relations professional to have a thorough understanding of the organisation’s operating environment. Broadly speaking, the organisation’s operating environment include political, economic, socio-cultural, technological, environmental and legal influences (Harrison 2011, p. 241). The public relations practitioner would need to ensure that they are competent in their understanding of the trends, if any, they can be identified in each of these environmental areas, as well as be sensitive to issues and many other concerns that an organisation’s stakeholders may have, which will affect the organisation’s future.

Understanding corporate social responsibility and what it entails is actually very important. This is quite a broad area and requires looking at the organisation from a non-financial perspective. It requires getting understanding of the various stakeholders in the organisation has, as well as their needs. Organisations have many stakeholders, who are defined as “any constituencies in the organisation’s external environment that are affected by the organisation’s decisions or actions” (Robbins et al, 2003, p. 92). Orlitzky, Siegel and Waldman (2011) outline that “multinational firms are increasingly pressured by numerous stakeholders to engage in social and environmental responsibility” (p. 6).

In the modern competitive market is no longer appropriate enough to simply focus on producing high-quality goods and providing a high standard of service. There is simply too much competition in the market and most of the industry participants provide high-quality goods as well as a high standard of service. In order to differentiate themselves, organisations need to do something more. It is now not a matter of what the organisation does, but how they do it. Those organisations who are seen as being better corporate citizens tend to attract more customers, as well as employees. A professional public relations practitioner can do a lot to assist the organisation to be more valued by their customers and other stakeholders. The public relations practitioner can be the organisation’s agent who works with the organisation’s stakeholders to identify, establish, and maintain mutually beneficial relationships, on which the organisation’s success or failure depends.

In conclusion, organisations do not operate in a vacuum. Their operations are affected by various forces, which may include legal, economic, political and so forth. Furthermore, an organisation has multiple stakeholders. Gone are the days where the key stakeholders with owners and managers. Today’s society is much more sensitive towards the way organisations and managed and operated. Consumers, lobby groups and suppliers have certain expectations of the organisation, and these expectations are not met then this could have a negative effect on the goodwill and financial performance of the organisation. The public relations practitioner is the bridge between the organisation and is very stakeholders. It is therefore very important, for the public relations practitioner to identify who the organisation is very stakeholders may be, what their needs and expectations of the organisation are, as well as the influential forces which make impact their reputation operations of the organisation. These various factors form part of a study of corporate social responsibility. It is therefore very important for the public relations practitioner to be aware of the concept of corporate social responsibility as well as have an understanding of what it entails.

REFERENCES

Cutlip, SM, Center, AH & Broom, GM 2006, Effective Public Relations, 9th ed, Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Grunig, JE & Hunt, T 1984, Managing Public Relations, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New Jersey.

Harrison, K 2011, Strategic Public Relations – A Guide to Practical Success, Palgrave MacMillian, Melbourne.

Long, LW & Hazleton, V 1987, “Public relations: a theoretical and practical response”, Public Relations Review, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 32 – 5.

Orlitzky, M, Siegel, DS & Waldman, DA 2011, “Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability”, Business & Society, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 6 – 27.

Robbins, SP, Bergman, R, Stagg, I & Coulter, M 2003, Management, 3rd ed, Prentice Hall, Sydney.

Wadell, D, Devine, J, Jones, G & George, J 2007, Contemporary Management, McGraw-Hill Irwin, Sydney.

Integrated marketing

The aim of this short essay is to explain why advertisers need to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC). The essay will begin by defining what IMC is, and explaining what it entails. The essay will further progress by presenting arguments which support IMC as a strategy for effective marketing campaigns, and certain weaknesses and challenges that surround IMC as a marketing strategy will also be presented an addressed.

The concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) can be explained as being a “concept in which a company carefully integrates and coordinates its many communication channels to deliver a clear, consistent and compelling message about the organisation and its products” (Kotler, Adam, Brown and Armstrong, 2006, p. 412). Essentially, an IMC campaign has its basis on the foundations provided by the communications model. It is a concept, or strategy, which has gained popularity since the early 1990s (Kitchen, Schultz, Kim, Han and Li, 2004). However, there is still great debate about the value of IMC as a marketing communication strategy. Smith (2002) explains that an IMC strategy can help the organisation achieve a competitive advantage through a combination of increased sales and profits while saving money, time as well as stress. This is because the marketing message that is presented as part of an IMC strategy will have a greater impact than would a disjointed in myriad of individual messages. Others argue that IMC is another management fad which is very exciting and promising in theory, but its application in reality may be very difficult and lead to very disappointing and costly results. Researchers such as Hutton (1996) explain that there is nothing new about what IMC offers, since the concept of coordinating the various marketing functions and promotional activities has been described in various marketing literature for a long period of time. The only thing new about IMC is its name.

Integrated marketing communication, as the term suggests, requires integration of the various messages from different communication channels to come together to form a coherent brand and corporate image. The various marketing elements such as advertising, personal selling, public relations, sales promotion and publicity have to be coordinated in a way which makes them speak as a single voice. The critical success factor to ensure an achievement of a strong and unified brand image which persuades consumers to take action is coordination. The failure to closely co-ordinate all the various communication elements can result in duplication of efforts or contradictory messages. Coordination and integration is generally easier said than done, and there are many barriers which make integration very difficult. Moriarty (1994) believes that the greatest barriers to IMC are cross disciplinary managerial skills. This is supported by Kitchen et al(2004) whose research has identified that the various researchers on the topic agree on one thing, and that is that “for successful execution of marketing communications, various disciplines must be brought together with high efficiency and high resonance meaning to stakeholders, customers and consumers” (p. 1417). It is often not easy to bring together the various disciplines or even managers from different departments in one organisation, to work together in a way that benefits the organisation as a whole, rather than the individual departments. Organisational politics are major obstacles which need to be overcome during the process of integration (Duncan and Everett, 1993). These obstacles will make it very difficult to develop and effectively integrated campaign.

It is important for advertisers to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication due to its breadth and complexity. An IMC campaign involves various IMC media, tools as well as technologies each of which have certain strengths and weaknesses, as well as being more appropriate for different marketing objectives. Furthermore, because integrated marketing communication involves the use of multiple marketing media, even a small IMC campaign can be very expensive. Advertisers and marketers need to understand the various media, tools and technologies as individual elements, and then examined how this can be used together to create an overall IMC campaign. This is on top of the issues that have been outlined in the previous paragraph which need to be considered and investigated prior to developing an IMC campaign.

Semenik (2002) provides multiple arguments for the support of IMC in the contemporary business environment, and explains the following as being the driving forces which lead organisations towards the use of integrated marketing communication for their marketing campaigns. According to Semenik (2002) the contemporary marketplace is characterised with having a customer base which is fragmented, consumers who are empowered and desire more corporate accountability, where there is already a great deal of advertising clutter, a shifting in channel power and one which has a well-developed information technology infrastructure and Internet. Due to the complexity of the marketplace, organisations can no longer simplify marketplace systems and communication approaches, instead, they need to adapt their communication techniques in ways that are most appropriate for the more dynamic and complex marketplace. Duncan and Everett (1993) explain IMC as being a reflection of meaningful integrative and holistic thinking. According to the authors it requires advertisers to look at marketing communications as communication tools which “are strategically deployed in a complimentary fashion after careful analysis of customer needs and review of the market situation” (Kitchen et al, 2004, p. 1419). For this to be done with any chance of success, the advertiser needs to understand the various forms of communication, the various delivery channels and customer characteristics.

In conclusion, advertisers need to understand the concept of integrated marketing communication because it is quite a complex concept, yet one which requires a considerable financial investment as well as allocation of organisational resources. However, if successfully implemented, an integrated marketing communication can do a lot for the organisation in terms of informing consumers about the organisation’s product, its brand and this can help to considerably build brand equity. An effective integrated marketing communications strategy will be one that is not only informative, but it is also persuasive and will incorporate reminders to consumers about the organisation and its products. Due to the great deal that can be achieved through an IMC strategy and costs that are involved in an effective implementation, it is important to ensure that advertisers and marketers understand the concept. Failure to do so can be very disappointing and also highly costly for the organisation. This essay illustrated that there are many pitfalls involved with integrated marketing communication campaigns which need to be taken into consideration by marketers and advertisers. It is a relatively recent concept which has been developed over the past couple of decades. There is still a great deal to learn and understand about the concept, and those advertisers who are in a better position to do so will be able to provide much more effective and successful campaigns for their corporate clients.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Duncan, TR & Everett, SE 1993, “client perceptions of integrated communications” Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 30 – 39.

Hutton GJ 1996, “Integrated Marketing Communications and the Evolution of Marketing Thought”, Journal of Business Research, vol. 37, pp. 155 – 172.

Kitchen, PJ, Schultz, DE, Kim, I, Han, D & Li, T 2004, “Will agencies ever “get” (or understand) IMC?”,European Journal of Marketing, vol. 38, iss. 11/12, pp. 1417 – 1436.

Kotler, P, Adam, S, Brown, L & Armstrong, G 2006, Principles of Marketing, 3rd edn, Pearson Education Australia, Sydney.

Moriarty, SE 1994, “PR and IMC: the benefits of integration”, Public Relations Quarterly, vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 38 – 44.

Semenik, RJ 2002, Promotion and Integrated Marketing Communications, Thomson learning, London.

Smith, PR 2002, Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach, 3rd edn, Kogan Page Limited, London.