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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Business Case for Public Relations


For quite some time now there has been a general misunderstanding with regards to public relations management and having a proactive public relations campaign amongst individuals and organizations across the globe. Many see it as a step child of marketing or as a function secondary to core marketing functions and activities such as research, advertising and promotion, strategy and brand management. Failure to recognise the importance of a public relations campaign and the need for a public relations campaign and having a proactive approach towards is what at times leaves organizations, individuals and even governments vulnerable and unprepared when disaster strikes, or they are confronted by unplanned events leaving them with more than they can handle. A disaster whether be it natural, man made or corporate comes without warning and unless organization's have a contingency plan already in place, they are caught off guard and unprepared. 

Throughout modern history, there are countless examples of where there has either been a corporate disaster or a set of circumstances, where it has proven to be a source of embaressment for the organization and a public relations nightmare. These include issues with product quality and human safety, such as the ordeal that Toyota had to go through last year especially with regards to its vehicles in the American market. Safety issues with the braking system on several of its models forced Toyota to withdraw thousands of its cars from show rooms from not only the United States but from across the world. This was a big source of embaressment for an Auto mobile giant that for decades had enjoyed a flawless reputation. 

Not too long, the energy giant BP had to face the biggest embaressment in its corporate history which eventually lead to the resignation of their star CEO who had taken BP to new heights and had been a profitible leader for the organization. This corporate disaster had come in the form of a massive oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico just off the Alabama Coast in the United States. Mounting pressure from various groups ranging from environmentalists to the president of the United States proved to be a massive public relations nightmare for the energy giant. The government of India, last year faced a significant Public Relations challenge on its own, so did the government of South Africa in the run up to two of the largest sporting events of 2010. Word had gotten out, that the atheletes village set up for the commonwealth games was below par and unsafe for use, while the public relations challenge that South Africa faced in the days leading upto the Fifa World Cup was over incomplete infrastructure and the high crime rate in South Africa's urbans centers. 

Even the sporting apparel giant Nike which is renowned around the world for its slogan 'Just Do It' and being the manufacturer of choice for countless sporting celebrities was not immune from a potential public relations nightmare. Countless activitsts accused Nike of exploiting labourers in the developing world though its 'Sweat Shops', where workers had long working hours and inappropriate working conditions. Glaxo Smith Klien faced a huge embaressment in New Zealand a few years ago when a couple of high school students while conducting a science experiment discovered that their world famous drink concentrate 'Ribena' actually has no traces of Vitamin C, this was inspite the product's association through its marketing activities with high quantities of Vitamin C.

At the same time, there are countless examples in modern history, where a good proactive approach to public relations campaign has proved very beneficial to the organization in Question and has made tremendous business sense. The best example that comes to one's mind is Apple Computers and their Pro active Public Relations campaigns that involved their founder Steve Jobs who has personally been there at the launch of all major innovative Apple products such as the Iphone and the Ipad. Both of these products are a tremendous success story, as the Iphone managed to create the bar for standards in smart phones, while the Ipad created an overnight market for Tablet PC's. Nintendo, the gaming console giant and a veteren of the industry is amongst the beneficiaries of having a proactive approach to public relations. It was because of their proactive approach to public relations, that they were able to transform their gaming console the 'Ninetendo Wii' into a massive success story in the presence of heavy competition from technically superior products such as Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's Playstation 3. Ninetendo's Wii manage to outsell both the Xbox and the Playstation 3 for two years in a row. Public Relations in the form of Word of mouth is also another Public Relations tool that many individuals and organizations use to achieve success. It was 'word of mouth' that transformed both Starbucks and Facebook into massive success stories from their humble origins. 

These examples of a proactive public relation campaign validate the importance of having a proactive approach to a public relations campaign and how it makes good business sense to have one in place. Firstly a good well planned public relations campaign is relatively more economical to conduct as oppossed to a full fledged marketing communications plan and can be more effective as well. Not only is a good proactive public relations campaign good for the company's bottom line, but at the same time a good proactive campaign contributes significantly towards the brand equity of the organization and its products and services. It creates a very strong towards the company and what they have to offer. At the same time, it allows the organization to transform itself into an employer of choice amongst the talented and innovative job seekers who during economic boom have significant choice and bargaining power when it comes to career options. A proactive public relations campaign also manages to shield corporations and individuals from legal reprecussions which at times could come with a hefty fine or restrictions on business activities, at the same time it creates opportunities for building and consolidating relationships with those in the wider community and the external environment. 

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