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Public Relations: the Myths, Misconceptions & Mystique


For the record
Dr. M. Jalaluddin
Science & Technology
New inventions
Netscape 6 unleashed
Performance appraisal — a motivational tool
Public Relations: the Myths, Misconceptions & Mystique
Politics & Policy
CE's visit to Cuba, Egypt and Libya
The devolution of power
Special Report
Pakistan Energy Conference
The Last Page
" The Nasdaq Phenomenon"

By Junaina Saulat
Apr 24 - 30, 2000

In Pakistan, people still do not understand the PR profession. People often abuse the term PR as 'Es keh PR bahut achee hai' Far from it PR is not about knowing the who's who. Its all about media relations, putting your clients key messages across to the publics and partners, to build and sustain your clients corporate image and to effectively and efficiently manage a crisis if it occurs.

PR is a profession for the future. As the world becomes a global village, the role of PR is becoming ever more important. Most people do not know the true meaning of the profession. It is a profession shrouded in myth, misconception & mystique.

The profession demands first and foremost a good communications strategist, creative thinkers, rigorous implementers and excellent writers. PR is not a lightweight profession. Depending on how it is approached, PR can be one of the most intellectually demanding professions. It is a profession in which one must constantly be developing, refining, and discovering new strategies and tactics to assist one's clients to communicate effectively to their publics. PR isn't a profession that lends itsself to mass production. Every client is different and its situations are constantly changing. As consultants we must respond to those needs with unique and creative solutions that meet their business objectives.

A Company's ability to influence and shape public opinion about its products and services is among the most precious assets. In many cases the success and very survival of a corporation is dependent of the effectiveness of its communications. Our job in PR is to ensure that the communication asset — the goodwill towards a company — is invested wisely.

PR has too often been thought of as a tool for corporate or government propaganda. The fact is, a good PR Consultancy tells it like it is. A PR firm should never advise its clients anything that is not entirely accurate. The urge to withhold information or deceive may be greatest when a company is facing a crisis. However if a plant just blew up or the company's product is defective, the last thing a company should do is be vague, misleading or withhold important information. Accuracy in communication is critical and that's what effective communication is about. A case in point here would be when Intel got a rude awakening to the Internet in 1994 when a math professor discovered a flaw in the Pentium microprocessor. Word spread quickly over the Internet, and Intel's initial denials of the severity of the problem led to howls of protest. The episode was a "defining moment on how we viewed the Internet, which came around and whacked us on the head," says Sean Maloney, senior vice president of sales and marketing. But their PR backing was strong. And now, when Intel finds a bug in a computer chip, it quickly posts an alert on its Web site, clearly painting the exact picture.

One can do a quick mental exercise; take four big corporations — Coca Cola, Microsoft, General Electric & Intel and if the first thought associated with each of these names is good — hats off to their PR companies. If on the other hand if you think of the Belgium disaster with Coke last year or the anti-trust case of Microsoft — then their PR consultants are not doing justice to their clients needs.

A PR company cannot work wonders.... Or can it? Corporations often expect the consultants to work image magic. You cannot fool people and a serious PR Consultancy would not want to try it. The consultancy can highlight and enhance the publics perception of a company, but the communication has to be built on reality or the effort will be doomed to failure in a very short time. Consultants are happy to carry out a little magic from time to time but that does not include trying to create an image that doesn't actually reflect the client.

A lot of people are drawn to the profession for the wrong reasons. It is our job to demystify public relations. The more people understand what we do and why, the more effectively we can serve our clients and the publics.

At its heart PR is information management and the dawn of the 21st century the society's life-blood is information. PR will continue to grow in importance as companies, organizations and governments realize how critical information management is to their development.

The more we can minimize or eliminate the myths, misconceptions and mystique surrounding PR, the more quickly will the industry develop in response to the needs of the public and private sector for solid information management.