What Is Public Relations?

Introduction

My future profession of choice is public relations. Public relations professionals are charged with the responsibility of planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating information as well as communication strategies to clients, members of the public and other stakeholders on behalf of the organization (Edwards & Hodges 2011, p. 77). In addition, PR officers are also charged with the responsibility of enhancing sound information flow within the company. As a PR professional, I expect to play an active role in monitoring public opinion over specific issues that affect the organization or client that I represent. I also expect to be involved in the designing and implementing of various communication strategies on behalf of the organization.

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Critical analysis of the PR professional

Fawkes (2008) contends that one of the most important skills of a PR professional is to fully understand the demands and needs of various groups. This is usually known as boundary spanning role and there is need for all PR professionals to execute this role in their profession. PR officers also act as advisors of the organisation’s management regarding key communication strategies and issues.

Moreover, PR officers are involved in planning public relations programs on behalf of the organization. They also present key arguments that involve the organisation to special interest groups, other organizations, and the government (Ihlen, van Ruler & Fredricksson 2009, p. 246). My expectation is that I shall be actively involved in planning and organising various events within the organisation, including visits, functions, open days, and exhibits.

A PR professional is also instrumental in stakeholder management (Cornelissen, 2008). There are various types of stakeholders associated with an organisation, including trade unions, employees, customers, investors, the media, the government, as well as the local community. Already, we have techniques in place that enable public relations professionals to not only identify stakeholders, but to also continually assess the importance of communicating with them.

One of my main goals as a PR professional will be to persuade the audience. In order for a PR professional to persuade the audience, it is important first that the audience in question also gets interested in the topic at hand. Also, before the audience gets interested in a certain idea, a PR profession needs to create the required awareness first (Botan & Hazleton 2006, p. 493). As a PR professional, I intend to utilize the M-A-O (Motivation, Ability, and Opportunity) model in a bid to lure a passive audience into accepting the message.

The audience needs to be motivated so that it becomes aware of the message that you need to communicate across. There are a number tactics that I shall be required to utilise as a PR profession while trying to motivate the audience. They include the style and design of the message, the unique way in which the message is to be delivered, and dependency on credible tastemakers.

Ability has to do with facilitating the public to understand the content of the message easily after creating awareness.

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As a PR professional, I hope to do this by simplifying the message delivered to the audience. In addition, I also intend to relate the message delivered to what the audience already knows. Opportunity entails structuring the message in such a way that it is processed optimally. This can be achieved by repetition of the message, and by ensuring that the message remains interesting. Also, it is important for a PR professional to ensure that he/she centers an ideal environment that will facilitate easier hearing of the message.

Code of conduct

Public relations professionals across the world are called upon to ensure that they uphold professional standards. The corporate well-being of any organization largely depends on the reputation that the organization in question is able to maintain. In the UK, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations is actively involved in creating and upholding the standards by which PR professionals have to abide by.

As such, the CIPR is essentially the voice of PR professionals in the UK. PR professionals who are affiliated to this body agree to conform to the professional code of conduct stipulated by the CIPR. The CIPR’s royal charter seeks to ‘to promote for the public benefit high levels of skill, knowledge, competence, and standards of practice and professional conduct on the part of public relations practitioners’ (CIPR 2012). The existence of a code of ethics, along with fact that the Institute is at liberty to undertake measure to uphold it, compels members to conduct themselves professionally and to remain accountable to it.

Avoiding conflict of interest, and transparency

Members of the CIPR are discouraged from disclosing to clients, potential clients or employers any information of financial interest regarding a supplier that is being engaged or recommended. Also, members of the CIPR are required to declaring any arising conflicts of interests to employers, clients, and even potential clients (Gregory 2008). Also, it is the responsibility of the PR professional to see to it that services provided to an organisation, employer, or client that they represent have been delivered, costed, and that the service provider can actually account for such services in a way that is in line with the accepted business ethics and practices.

Honesty and integrity

PR professionals need to ensure that employers, clients, fellow professionals and colleagues get full information regarding the nature of representation. In addition, the PR professional has to ensure that the aforementioned parties know what can be actually achieved and delivered, as well as what other parties needs to undertake so as to achieve the desired results (Grunig, Grunig & Dozier 2002).

The PR professional should never intentionally hide the practitioner’s role as representative of an employer or client, even in a case whereby the identity of the employer or client is still anonymous, such as by promoting the cause under the pretext of a member of the public or a disinterested party (Gruning et al 2002). There is also need for the PR professional to ensure that he/she has counterchecked the accuracy and reliability of information prior to its dissemination. In case a member detects an unprofessional conduct or malpractice, he/she is encouraged to notify the CIPR as a way of supporting the Institute’s principles.

Confidentiality

PR professionals should ensure that they uphold confidences, such as with former and current employers and clients. Also, they should desist from using ‘insider’ or confidential information at the expense of employers or clients (Laskin 2009, p. 41). They should also not divulge confidential information expect when compelled to do so by Law, or upon granting of specific permission.

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Capability, capacity, and competence

It is important that PR professionals deliver their work competently. In this case, they ought to deliver work in a cost-effective, timely, and thoughtful; manner. They should also follow the established guidelines and always inform, consult, and advice clients and all other interested parties (Laskin 2009, p. 43). In case of emerging problems, they need to apply due diligence, experience, and judgment to resolve such problems. In addition, the PR professional should also be fully aware of his/her professional capability or capacity. In the event that a member of the Institute is deemed to have breached the Code, the Institute’s Professional Practices Committee is duty-bound to initiate investigations and seek to either adjudicate the case or negotiate a settlement.

Conclusion

In my opinion, I think that the CIPR protocols do not go far enough as should be expected. This is because at times, the CIPR ethics committee and other related officials may be too reluctant to act swiftly to enforce the proposed guidelines regarding the standards and ethics of members of the Institute. Owens and Luker (2012) note that the industry has in the recent past been faced with calls to enhance guidelines regarding the standards and ethics following intensified scrutiny from regulators over lobbying and PR. This move is likely to see the CIPR and other PR bodies revise the existing code of conduct for members.

In addition, the PR protocols have been mainly been used to one-way advocacy with regard to certain specific private interests and for this reason, Cheney and Christensen (2006, p. 100) opine that the profession has really struggled to gain ethical credibility as well as academic legitimacy. It is important to move swiftly and try to dispel this notion and appease the public, clients, potential clients and employers because the success of PR as a profession largely hinges on ethics, trust, and credibility. If the aforementioned parties lose interest and trust in the profession, it will become increasingly difficult for PR professionals to undertake their duties, and the very essence of the existing code of conduct shall have been rendered ineffectual.

Reference List

Botan, C & Hazleton, V 2006, Public Relations Theory II, Routledge Communication Series, New York.

Cornelissen, J 2008,Corporate Communication: A guide to theory and practice, Sage, London.

Edwards, L & Hodges, C 2011, Public Relations, Society & Culture: Theoretical and Empirical Explorations, Routledge, London.

Fawkes, J 2008, What is public relations?,’ in Theaker, A. (ed). The Public Relations Handbook, Routledge, London.

Gregory, A 2008 Public Relations and Management, in Theaker, A. (ed). The Public Relations Handbook,Routledge, London.

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Grunig, J, Grunig L & Dozier, D 2002, Excellent Public Relations and Effective Organisations, Erlbaum, New Jersey.

Ihlen, O, van Ruler, B & Fredricksson, M 2009, Public Relations and Social Theory: Key Figures and Concepts, Routledge Communication Series, London.

Laskin, A 2009,’The evolution of models of public relations: an outsider’s Perspective’, Journal of Communication Management, Vol.13, No.1, pp. 37-54

Owens, J & Luker, S 2012, CIPR moves to stiffen ethics guidelines as lobbying scrutiny intensifies. Web.

PRSA 2011, Ethical Guidance for Public Relations Practitioners. Web.

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