As someone who is about to graduate with a business degree majoring in public relations, the most common questions I get asked are limited to asking what PR is, or the confusion that I’m studying marketing. The whole situation really got me thinking, why don’t people know the power and importance of PR?
What is PR officially?
According to the PRIA (Public Relations Institute of Australia), it is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation (or individual) and its (or their) publics. Alternatively, according to Urban dictionary, it’s another name for a spokesperson for a politician, organisation or a company. just about any spin doctor. With many conflicting definitions, I like to sit somewhere in the middle, with the moral support from Homer Simpson and the PR coach with: Public relation is stronger relationships, the best communication, in the best channels, at the right time, to the right people…
Can I have an example?
My favourite example of a great brand and reputation story is called the KitKat thief and it goes like this. There once was a college student who had been running late for class and left a KitKat bar in his car cup holder without locking the doors. A little while later another student had walked past, seen the KitKat, tried to open the door and found that it was unlocked. Being a polite person, the thief left a handwritten note that said “Saw a KitKat in your cup holder. I love KitKats so I checked your door and it was unlocked. Did not take anything other than this. I am sorry and Hungry”.
What did they respond with?
With the help of Ketchum a public relations agency, the same students car was apart of a stunt activation costing only $12000. The best part of this is that the whole budget was spent on more KitKats to fill up the car of which the original chocolate bar was stolen from. A total of 6500 chocolates were used, and the theme was used that KitKat wanted to give the victim a ‘break’.
After Ketchum created a creative response for the brand, over 1 million social interactions were reached and an estimated 642.7 million dollars of media impressions were made. These impressions were not only made on new media platforms, but also appeared through traditional media on news programs and on the front page of newspapers.
Why it worked?
Through a proactive approach, the generate content could be used following the participants story to create newsworthy content. In this story, the timing had a major part in ensuring that along with the stunt, media releases and photographs of the original note and story went viral. The story itself was engaging rather than stinking of organisational messaging and this made the story genuine. As a result, a relationship was built on an interesting story and was shared around using best practice when using social media.
PR isn’t always chocolate bars.
For the most of the time, PR is used to help a company or person heal their image from a negative incident that has occurred. It doesn’t take much to remember when United Airlines accidentally forgot about social media and gently removed someone off their overbooked plane.
Not only did the company face a backlash about the incident that occurred, but they were now having to respond to the negative exposure about the brand and what United stands for. This situation became a whole lot worse for united when they failed to be responsive enough to satisfy the needs of their stakeholders. Crisis control is hard at the best of times, and can become much worse when the issue isn’t taken seriously or doesn’t follow best practice when managing the companies reputation within the issue.
As technology advances, the area of public relations becomes increasingly important because you just never know what exposure opportunities or crisis responses that are going to come up. On a personal level, the variety and excitement in the job is one of the main reasons that i chose to study it in the first place.