Public relations
Overview
 
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.

An earlier definition of public relations, by The first World Assembly of Public Relations Associations, held in Mexico City, in August 1978, was "the art and social science of analyzing trends
FAD
In biochemistry, flavin adenine dinucleotide is a redox cofactor involved in several important reactions in metabolism. FAD can exist in two different redox states, which it converts between by accepting or donating electrons. The molecule consists of a riboflavin moiety bound to the phosphate...

, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

."

Others define it as the practice of managing communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 between an organization and its publics.
Encyclopedia
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.

An earlier definition of public relations, by The first World Assembly of Public Relations Associations, held in Mexico City, in August 1978, was "the art and social science of analyzing trends
FAD
In biochemistry, flavin adenine dinucleotide is a redox cofactor involved in several important reactions in metabolism. FAD can exist in two different redox states, which it converts between by accepting or donating electrons. The molecule consists of a riboflavin moiety bound to the phosphate...

, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

."

Others define it as the practice of managing communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 between an organization and its publics. Public relations provides an organization or individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

 exposure
Publicity
Publicity is the deliberate attempt to manage the public's perception of a subject. The subjects of publicity include people , goods and services, organizations of all kinds, and works of art or entertainment.From a marketing perspective, publicity is one component of promotion which is one...

 to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that provide a third-party endorsement and do not direct payment. Common activities include speaking
Public speaking
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners...

 at conferences, working with the media, crisis communications, social media
Social media
The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0,...

 engagement, and employee communication.

The Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an view of public relations notes that besides a relational form of interactivity there is also a reflective paradigm that is concerned with publics and the public sphere
Public sphere
The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action...

; not only with relational, which can in principle be private, but also with public consequences of organizational behaviour A much broader view of interactive communication using the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, as outlined by Phillips and Young in Online Public Relations Second Edition (2009), describes the form and nature of Internet-mediated public relations. It encompasses social media and other channels for communication and many platforms for communication such as personal computer
Personal computer
A personal computer is any general-purpose computer whose size, capabilities, and original sales price make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end-user with no intervening computer operator...

s (PCs), mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

s and video game console
Video game console
A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or customized computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to display a video game...

s with Internet access
Internet access
Many technologies and service plans for Internet access allow customers to connect to the Internet.Consumer use first became popular through dial-up connections in the 20th century....

. The increasing use of the mentioned technologies give the media a democratisation power and thus, aid to the demystification of subjects.

Public relations is used to build rapport with employees, customers, investors, voters, or the general public. Almost any organization that has a stake in how it is portrayed in the public arena employs some level of public relations. There are a number of public relations disciplines falling under the banner of corporate communications
Corporate communications
Corporate communication is the message issued by a corporate organization, body, or institute to its publics. "Publics" can be both internal Corporate communication is the message issued by a corporate organization, body, or institute to its publics. "Publics" can be both internal Corporate...

, such as analyst relations
Analyst relations
Analyst Relations is a corporate communications and marketing activity in which corporations communicate with ICT industry analysts who work for independent research and consulting firms....

, media relations
Media relations
Media relations involves working with various media for the purpose of informing the public of an organization's mission, policies and practices in a positive, consistent and credible manner. Typically, this means coordinating directly with the people responsible for producing the news and features...

, investor relations
Investor relations
Investor Relations is a strategic management responsibility that integrates finance, communication, marketing and securities law compliance to enable the most effective two-way communication between a company, the financial community, and other constituencies, which ultimately contributes to a...

, internal communications
Internal communications
Internal communications is the function responsible for effective communication among participants within an organization.A relatively young profession, IC draws on the theory and practice of related professions, not least journalism, knowledge management, public relations, media relations,...

 and labor relations
Labor relations
Industrial relations is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship. Industrial relations is increasingly being called employment relations because of the importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Many outsiders also equate industrial relations to labour relations...

. Most of them include the aspect of peer review to get liability.

Other public relations disciplines include:
  • Financial public relations – providing information mainly to business reporters
  • Consumer/lifestyle public relations – gaining publicity for a particular product or service, rather than using advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

  • Crisis public relations – responding to negative accusations or information
  • Industry relations – providing information to trade bodies
  • Government relations – engaging government departments to influence policymaking

Status of the industry

The practice of public relations is spread widely. On the professional level, there is an organization called Public Relations Society of America
Public Relations Society of America
The ' , based in New York City, is the world's largest organization for public relations professionals. The organization has more than 21,000 members, including professionals from public relations agencies, corporations, government, health care institutions, military, professional services firms,...

 (PRSA), the world's largest public relations organization. PRSA is a community of more than 21,000 professionals that works to advance the skill set of public relations. PRSA also fosters a national student organization called Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

In the United States, public relations professionals earn an average annual salary of $49,800 which compares with £40,000 for a practitioner with a similar job in the UK http://www.medianrecruit.co.uk/index.cfm?fa=contentGeneric.brbvikzqtqeomchq. Top earners make around $89,220 annually, while entry-level public relations specialists earn around $28,080. Corporate, or in-house communications is generally more profitable, and communications executives can earn salaries in the mid six-figures, though this only applies to a fraction of the sector's workforce.

The role of public relations professionals is changing because of the shift from traditional to online media. Many PR professionals are finding it necessary to learn new skills and to examine how social media
Social media
The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0,...

 can impact a brand's reputation.

Methods, tools and tactics

Public relations and publicity
Publicity
Publicity is the deliberate attempt to manage the public's perception of a subject. The subjects of publicity include people , goods and services, organizations of all kinds, and works of art or entertainment.From a marketing perspective, publicity is one component of promotion which is one...

 are not synonymous, but many public relations campaigns include provisions for publicity. Publicity is the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization, and can be seen as a result of effective public relations planning. More recently in public relations, professionals are using technology as their main tool to get their messages to target audiences. With the creation of social networks, blogs, and even Internet radio public relations professionals are able to send direct messages through these mediums that attract the target audiences. Methods used to find out what is appealing to target audiences include the use of surveys, conducting research or even focus groups. Tactics are the ways to attract target audiences by using the information gathered about that audience and directing a message to them using tools such as social mediums or other technology. Another emerging theme is the application of psychological theories of impression management
Impression management
In sociology and social psychology, impression management is a goal-directed conscious or unconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event; they do so by regulating and controlling information in social interaction...

.

Tools

There are various tools that can be used in the practice of public relations. Traditional tools include press releases and media kits which are sent out to generate positive press on behalf of the organization. Other widely used tools include brochures, newsletters and annual reports. Increasingly, companies are utilizing interactive social media outlets, such as blog
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

s and social media
Social media
The term Social Media refers to the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0,...

 as tools in their public relations campaigns. Unlike the traditional tools which allowed for only one-way communication, social media outlets allow the organization to engage in two-way communication, and receive immediate feedback from their various stakeholders and public. Furthermore companies can join discussions with multiple user identities to create a positive image of the company.

One of the most popular and traditional tools used by public relations professionals is a press kit
Press kit
A press kit, often referred to as a media kit in business environments, is a pre-packaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organization distributed to members of the media for promotional use...

, also known as a media kit. A press kit is usually a folder that consists of promotional materials that give information about an event, organization, business, or even a person. What are included would be backgrounders or biographies, fact sheet
Fact sheet
A fact sheet, factsheet or one-sheet is a presentation of data in a format which emphasizes key points concisely. The layout is simple and often standardized, e.g...

s, press releases (or media releases), media alerts, brochures, newsletters, photographs with captions, copies of any media clips, and social mediums. With the way that the industry has changed, many organizations may have a website with a link, "Press Room" which would have online versions of these documents.

The art of public relations is more than simply press kits and social media. 'PR' is synonymous in many people's minds with "Press Release", but the tools of the PR industry are actually many and varied as well as sophisticated and subtle. They include media relations kits containing video and audio news releases, referred to in the industry as VNRs and ANRs, which are often carefully produced to emulate the signature style of a particular network news or current affairs program. These products are then delivered to networks and run as regular program content, with or without source acknowledgment, thereby saving the network tens of thousands of dollars in production costs and delivering for the client of the PR firm an extremely effective and subtle method of managing public opinion. Crisis and issues management campaigns often utilize VNRs and ANRs in their efforts to manage information pertaining to threats to client reputation or profit. Astroturfing, or creating front groups designed to appear as genuine grass roots movements, (hence astroturf or fake grass) has proven to be a very effective method of opinion management because people are less suspicious and critical of "ordinary people voicing their concerns" than they are of representatives of corporations or governments. Buzz generation, or buzz marketing is another powerful and subversive form of PR in which people are paid to create a "buzz" amongst their peers by exposing them to products or opinions in a manner that appears not to be deliberate marketing or opinion management. Most PR campaigns use many or all of these "communication" techniques and a great many more in creative ways that deliver practical results in marketing or public opinion management. Interacting with the consumer is a key part of public relations.

Targeting publics

A fundamental technique used in public relations is to identify the target audience
Target audience
In marketing and advertising, a target audience, is a specific group of people within the target market at which the marketing message is aimed .....

, and to tailor every message to appeal to that audience. It can be a general, nationwide or worldwide audience, but it is more often a segment of a population. A good elevator pitch
Elevator pitch
An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition...

 can help tailor messaging to each target audience. Marketers
Marketing
Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments...

 often refer to socio-economically driven "demographics
Demographics
Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

", such as "black males 18-49". However, in public relations an audience is more fluid, being whoever someone wants to reach. Or, in the new paradigm of value based networked social groups, the values based social segment could be a trending audience. For example, recent political audiences seduce such buzzword
Buzzword
A buzzword is a term of art, salesmanship, politics, or technical jargon that is used in the media and wider society outside of its originally narrow technical context....

 monikers as "soccer mom
Soccer mom
The phrase soccer mom broadly refers to a middle-class suburban woman who spends a significant amount of her time transporting her school-age children to their sporting events or other activities. Indices of American magazines and newspapers show relatively little usage of the term until a 1995...

s" and "NASCAR dad
NASCAR dad
The phrase NASCAR dad broadly refers to a demographic group of often white, usually middle-aged, working-class or lower-middle-class men in North America...

s."

An alternative and less flexible, more simplistic, approach uses stakeholders theory to identify people who have a stake in a given institution or issue. All audiences are stakeholders (or presumptive stakeholders), but not all stakeholders are audiences. For example, if a charity commissions a public relations agency to create an advertising campaign to raise money to find a cure for a disease, the charity
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

 and the people with the disease are stakeholders, but the audience is anyone who is likely to donate money.

Sometimes the interests of differing audiences and stakeholders common to a public relations effort necessitate the creation of several distinct but complementary messages. This is not always easy to do, and sometimes, especially in politics, a spokesperson or client says something to one audience that creates dissonance with another audience or group of stakeholders.

Lobby groups

Lobby groups are established to influence government policy, corporate policy, or public opinion
Public opinion
Public opinion is the aggregate of individual attitudes or beliefs held by the adult population. Public opinion can also be defined as the complex collection of opinions of many different people and the sum of all their views....

. An example of this is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
American Israel Public Affairs Committee
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that advocates pro-Israel policies to the Congress and Executive Branch of the United States...

 (AIPAC), which influences American foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

 toward another country. Such groups claim to represent a particular interest and in fact are dedicated to doing so. When a lobby group hides its true purpose and support base, it is known as a front group. Moreover, governments may also lobby public relations firms in order to sway public opinion. A well illustrated example of this is the way civil war in Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

 was portrayed. Governments of the newly seceded republics of Croatia
Croatia
Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

 and Bosnia, as well as Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 invested heavily with UK and American public relations firms, so that they would give them a positive image in the USA.

Spin

In public relations, spin
Spin (public relations)
In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure...

 is sometimes a pejorative
Pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

 term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in specific favor of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, spin often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative
Psychological manipulation
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative,...

 tactics. Politicians are often accused of spin by commentators and political opponents when they produce a counterargument or position.

The techniques of spin include selectively presenting facts and quotes that support ideal positions (cherry picking), the so-called "non-denial denial
Non-denial denial
Non-denial denial is a statement that seems direct, clearcut and unambiguous at first hearing, but when carefully parsed is revealed not to be a denial at all, and is thus not untruthful. It is a case in which words that are literally true are used to convey a false impression; analysis of whether...

", phrasing that in a way presumes unproven truths, euphemism
Euphemism
A euphemism is the substitution of a mild, inoffensive, relatively uncontroversial phrase for another more frank expression that might offend or otherwise suggest something unpleasant to the audience...

s for drawing attention away from items considered distasteful, and ambiguity in public statements. Another spin technique involves careful choice of timing in the release of certain news so it can take advantage of prominent events in the news. A famous reference to this practice occurred when British Government press officer Jo Moore
Jo Moore
Jo Moore served as a British special adviser and press officer . She was embroiled in scandal while working as advisor to Stephen Byers, the Transport, Local Government and Regions Secretary....

 used the phrase "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury", (widely paraphrase
Paraphrase
Paraphrase is restatement of a text or passages, using other words. The term "paraphrase" derives via the Latin "paraphrasis" from the Greek , meaning "additional manner of expression". The act of paraphrasing is also called "paraphrasis."...

d or misquoted as "It's a good day to bury bad news"), in an email sent on the day of the September 11 attacks in 2001. The furor caused when this email was reported in the press eventually caused her to resign.

Skilled practitioners of spin are sometimes called "spin doctors", despite the negative connotation associated with the term. Perhaps the best-known person in the UK often described as a "spin doctor" is Alastair Campbell
Alastair Campbell
Alastair John Campbell is a British journalist, broadcaster, political aide and author, best known for his work as Director of Communications and Strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003, having first started working for Blair in 1994...

, who was involved with Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

's public relations between 1994 and 2003, and also played a controversial role as press relations officer to the British and Irish Lions
British and Irish Lions
The British and Irish Lions is a rugby union team made up of players from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales...

 rugby union
Rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...

 side during their 2005 tour of New Zealand
2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand
In 2005 the British and Irish Lions rugby union team toured New Zealand for the first time since 1993, playing 7 tour matches against first and second division clubs from the National Provincial Championship series, 1 tour match against the national New Zealand all Māori club, and 3 official test...

.

State-run media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 in many countries also engage in spin by selectively allowing news stories that are favorable to the government while censoring anything that could be considered critical. They may also use propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 to indoctrinate
Indoctrination
Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology . It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned...

 or actively influence citizens' opinions. Privately run media may also use the same techniques of "issue" versus "non-issue" to spin its particular political viewpoints

Negative PR

Negative public relations, also called dark public relations (DPR), is a process of destroying the target's reputation and/or corporate identity
Corporate identity
In Corporate Communications, a corporate identity is the "persona" of a corporation which is designed to accord with and facilitate the attainment of business objectives...

. In other words, instead of concentrating efforts in the maintenance and the creation of a positive reputation or image of your clients, the objective is to discredit someone else, usually a business rival. Unlike the regular services in public relations, those in DPR rely on the development of industries such as IT security, industrial espionage
Industrial espionage
Industrial espionage, economic espionage or corporate espionage is a form of espionage conducted for commercial purposes instead of purely national security purposes...

, social engineering
Social engineering (security)
Social engineering is commonly understood to mean the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information...

 and competitive intelligence
Competitive intelligence
A broad definition of competitive intelligence is the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.Key...

. A common technique is finding all of the dirty secrets of their target and turning them against their very own holder.
The building of a dark PR campaign, also known as a dirty tricks
Dirty tricks
Dirty tricks are unethical, duplicitous, slanderous or illegal tactics employed to destroy or diminish the effectiveness of political or business opponents...

 or a smear campaign
Smear campaign
A smear campaign, smear tactic or simply smear is a metaphor for activity that can harm an individual or group's reputation by conflation with a stigmatized group...

 is a long and a complex operation. Traditionally it starts with an extensive information gathering
Intelligence (information gathering)
Intelligence assessment is the development of forecasts of behaviour or recommended courses of action to the leadership of an organization, based on a wide range of available information sources both overt and covert. Assessments are developed in response to requirements declared by the leadership...

 and follows the other needs of a precise competitive research. The gathered information is being used after that as a part of a greater strategical planning, aiming to destroy the relationship between the company and its stakeholders.

Other

  • Publicity events, pseudo-event
    Pseudo-event
    A pseudo-event is an event or activity that exists for the sole purpose of the media publicity and serves little to no other function in real life...

    s, photo op
    Photo op
    A photo op , short for photograph opportunity , is an opportunity to take a memorable and effective photograph of a politician, a celebrity, or a notable event...

    s or publicity stunt
    Publicity stunt
    A publicity stunt is a planned event designed to attract the public's attention to the event's organizers or their cause. Publicity stunts can be professionally organized or set up by amateurs...

    s
  • Talk show
    Talk show
    A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

     circuit: a public relations spokesperson, or the client, "does the circuit" by being interviewed on television and radio talk shows with audiences that the client wishes to reach
  • Books and other writings
  • Blogs
  • After a public relations practitioner has been working in the field for a while, he or she accumulates a list of contacts in the media and elsewhere in the public affairs sphere. This "Rolodex
    Rolodex
    A Rolodex is a rotating file device used to store business contact information currently manufactured by Newell Rubbermaid. The Rolodex holds specially shaped index cards; the user writes the contact information for one person or company on each card...

    " becomes a prized asset, and job announcements sometimes even ask for candidates with an existing Rolodex, especially those in the media relations area of public relations.
  • Direct communication (carrying messages directly to constituents, rather than through the mass media) with, e.g., newsletters – in print and e-letters
  • Collateral literature, traditionally in print and now predominantly as web sites
  • Speeches to constituent groups and professional organizations; receptions; seminars, and other events; personal appearances
  • The slang term for a public relations practitioner or publicist is a "flack" (sometimes spelled "flak")
  • A desk visit is where the public relations person literally takes their product to the desk of the journalist in order to show them emerging promotions
  • Astroturfing
    Astroturfing
    Astroturfing is a form of advocacy in support of a political, organizational, or corporate agenda, designed to give the appearance of a "grassroots" movement. The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political and/or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some...

     is the act of public relations agencies placing blog and online forum messages for their clients, in the guise of a normal "grassroots" user or comment (an illegal practice across the larger practice areas such as the European Union
    European Union
    The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

    )
  • Online social media and Internet mediated public relations practices

Defining the opponent

In the USA, but not in the larger public relations markets, the tactic known as "defining one's opponent" is used in political campaigns. Opponents can be candidates, organizations and other groups of people.

In the 2004 US presidential campaign, Howard Dean
Howard Dean
Howard Brush Dean III is an American politician and physician from Vermont. He served six terms as the 79th Governor of Vermont and ran unsuccessfully for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009. Although his U.S...

 defined John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

 as a "flip-flopper," which was widely reported and repeated by the media, particularly the conservative media. Similarly, George H.W. Bush characterized Michael Dukakis
Michael Dukakis
Michael Stanley Dukakis served as the 65th and 67th Governor of Massachusetts from 1975–1979 and from 1983–1991, and was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988. He was born to Greek immigrants in Brookline, Massachusetts, also the birthplace of John F. Kennedy, and was the longest serving...

 as weak on crime (the Willie Horton
Willie Horton
William R. "Willie" Horton is an American convicted felon who, while serving a life sentence for murder, without the possibility of parole, was the beneficiary of a Massachusetts weekend furlough program...

 ad) and hopelessly liberal ("a card-carrying member of the ACLU
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

"). In 1996, President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 seized upon opponent Bob Dole
Bob Dole
Robert Joseph "Bob" Dole is an American attorney and politician. Dole represented Kansas in the United States Senate from 1969 to 1996, was Gerald Ford's Vice Presidential running mate in the 1976 presidential election, and was Senate Majority Leader from 1985 to 1987 and in 1995 and 1996...

's promise to take America back to a simpler time, promising in contrast to "build a bridge to the 21st century." This painted Dole as a person who was somehow opposed to progress.

In the debate over abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

, self-titled pro-choice
Pro-choice
Support for the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-choice movement, a sociopolitical movement supporting the ethical view that a woman should have the legal right to elective abortion, meaning the right to terminate her pregnancy....

 groups, by virtue of their name, defined their opponents as "anti-choice", while self-titled pro-life
Pro-life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

 groups refer to their opponents as "pro-abortion" or "anti-life".

Managing language

If, in the USA, a politician or organization can use an apt phrase in relation to an issue in interviews or news releases, the news media will often repeat it verbatim, without questioning its aptness. This perpetuates both the message and whatever preconceptions might underlie it. Often, something that sounds innocuous can stand in for something greater; a "culture of life
Culture of life
The phrase "culture of life" is a term used in discussion of moral theology, especially of the Catholic Church. Its proponents describe it as a way of life based upon the theological truth that human life at all stages from conception through natural death is sacred...

" sounds like general goodwill to most people, but will evoke opposition to abortion for many pro-life advocates. The phrase "States' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

" was used as a code for anti-civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 legislation in the United States in the 1960s, and allegedly in the 1970s and 1980s.

Conveying the message

The means by which a message is communicated can be as important as the message itself. Direct mail
Direct mail
Advertising mail, also known as direct mail, junk mail, or admail, is the delivery of advertising material to recipients of postal mail. The delivery of advertising mail forms a large and growing service for many postal services, and direct-mail marketing forms a significant portion of the direct...

, robocall
Robocall
Robocall is a term for an automated phone call that uses both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message. The implication is that a "robocall" resembles a telephone call from a robot...

ing, advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 and public speaking
Public speaking
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners...

 are commonly used depending upon the intended audience and the message that is conveyed. Press releases are also used, but since many newspapers are folding in the USA, they have become a less reliable way of communicating for American practitioners, and other methods have become more popular.

In the USA and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, news organizations have begun to rely more on their own websites and have developed a variety of unique approaches to publicity and public relations, on and off the web.

Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 has employed a series of Web 2.0
Web 2.0
The term Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web...

 initiatives which are indicative of how a small nation can use internet mediated communication. Israel's initiative in 2008 included a blog
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

, MySpace
MySpace
Myspace is a social networking service owned by Specific Media LLC and pop star Justin Timberlake. Myspace launched in August 2003 and is headquartered in Beverly Hills, California. In August 2011, Myspace had 33.1 million unique U.S. visitors....

 page, YouTube
YouTube
YouTube is a video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, on which users can upload, view and share videos....

 channel, Facebook
Facebook
Facebook is a social networking service and website launched in February 2004, operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc. , Facebook has more than 800 million active users. Users must register before using the site, after which they may create a personal profile, add other users as...

 page and a political blog
Political blog
A political blog is a common type of blog that comments on politics. In liberal democracies the right to criticize the government without interference is considered an important element of free speech...

 to reach different audiences. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs started the country's video blog as well as its political blog. The Foreign Ministry held the first microblogging
Microblogging
Microblogging is a broadcast medium in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size...

 press conference via Twitter
Twitter
Twitter is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as "tweets".Twitter was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July...

 about its war with Hamas
2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict
The Gaza War, known as Operation Cast Lead in Israel and as the Gaza Massacre in the Arab world, was a three-week bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israel, and hundreds of rocket attacks on south of Israel which...

, with Consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

 David Saranga
David Saranga
David Saranga is an Israeli diplomat and former Consul for Media and Public Affairs of Israel in the United States. Saranga was responsible for Israel’s image in the United States and was the liaison person of Israel to the American media...

 answering live questions from a worldwide public in common text-messaging abbreviations. The questions and answers were later posted on IsraelPolitik
IsraelPolitik
IsraelPolitik is an official blog of the Consulate General of Israel in New York, and the second blog to be administered by the Israeli Consulate’s media and public affairs team. It was initiated by David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs, following the launch of isRealli, which was the...

, the country's official political blog
Political blog
A political blog is a common type of blog that comments on politics. In liberal democracies the right to criticize the government without interference is considered an important element of free speech...

.

Front groups

One of the most controversial practices in public relations is the use of front groups, organizations that purport to serve a public cause while actually serving the interests of a client whose sponsorship may be obscured or concealed. Critics of the public relations industry, such as PR Watch
PR Watch
PR Watch is a web site, and until 2008 a quarterly newsletter, whose stated mission is to expose deceptive and misleading public relations campaigns. It particularly covers US environmental issues, but also covers topics ranging from labor rights to world affairs...

, contend that some public relations firms involve a "multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry" that "concocts and spins the news, organizes phony grassroots
Grassroots
A grassroots movement is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures...

 front groups, spies
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 on citizens, and conspires with lobbyists and politicians to thwart democracy."

Instances with the use of front groups as a public relations technique have been documented in many industries. Coal mining
Coal mining
The goal of coal mining is to obtain coal from the ground. Coal is valued for its energy content, and since the 1880s has been widely used to generate electricity. Steel and cement industries use coal as a fuel for extraction of iron from iron ore and for cement production. In the United States,...

 corporations have created "environmental groups" that contend that increased carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 emissions and global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 will contribute to plant growth and will be beneficial, trade groups for bars
Bar (establishment)
A bar is a business establishment that serves alcoholic drinks — beer, wine, liquor, and cocktails — for consumption on the premises.Bars provide stools or chairs that are placed at tables or counters for their patrons. Some bars have entertainment on a stage, such as a live band, comedians, go-go...

 have created and funded citizens' groups to attack anti-alcohol groups, tobacco companies
Tobacco industry
The tobacco industry comprises those persons and companies engaged in the growth, preparation for sale, shipment, advertisement, and distribution of tobacco and tobacco-related products. It is a global industry; tobacco can grow in any warm, moist environment, which means it can be farmed on all...

 have created and funded citizens' groups to advocate for tort reform
Tort reform
Tort reform refers to proposed changes in common law civil justice systems that would reduce tort litigation or damages. Tort actions are civil common law claims first created in the English commonwealth system as a non-legislative means for compensating wrongs and harm done by one party to...

 and to attack personal injury lawyer
Personal injury lawyer
A personal injury lawyer is a lawyer who provides legal representation to those who claim to have been injured, physically or psychologically, as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, government agency, or other entity....

s, while trial lawyers have created "consumer advocacy" front groups to oppose tort reform
Tort reform
Tort reform refers to proposed changes in common law civil justice systems that would reduce tort litigation or damages. Tort actions are civil common law claims first created in the English commonwealth system as a non-legislative means for compensating wrongs and harm done by one party to...

.

See also

Further reading

  • Sharon Beder (2002) 'Global Spin: the corporate assault on environmentalism', Totnes, Green Books.
  • Edward Bernays
    Edward Bernays
    Edward Louis Bernays , was an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda along with Ivy Lee, referred to in his obituary as "the father of public relations"...

    . (1928) "Propaganda".
  • Boorstin, Daniel J. (1972) The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Atheneum.
  • Ewen, Stuart. (1996) PR! A Social History of Spin. New York: BasicBooks.
  • Hall, Phil. (2007) The New PR. Mount Kisco, N.Y.: Larstan Publishing.
  • LA Yellow Shuttle.
  • Seib, Patrick and Fitzpatrick, Kathy. (1995) Public Relations Ethics. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace and Company.
  • Friedman, Marsha. (2009) Celebritize Yourself: The Three Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business. North Carolina: Warren Publishing, Inc. "Celebritize Yourself".

External links


About the industry
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