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Using Public Relations as a Marketing Tool

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F. Charles Graves, EdD, President, Charles Graves Associates Public relations has gained positive and wide acceptance as a powerful and effective marketing tool, because it has proven it can help achieve marketing and corporate objectives. This positive trend has been increasing for over a decade.

One of the major reasons for this is that business to business customers and consumers are changing and do not anymore receive their primary prompts for action through advertising one of marketing's old standbys. Therefore, marketing has had to find new and more effective ways to get to customers.

In such a fragmented communications environment (splintered broadcast and print media) that exists in the U.S. today, public relations' tools are found to be effective in maximizing customers' awareness and understanding of products and services. Public relations is extremely capable of sending 'interpreted' information directly to key targeted public segments and their influencers.

Marketing executives have observed that public relations, when used properly, can build, regain, and reinforce a distinctive position in the long term memory of customers (current, past, potential) and important influencers and observers for the products and services of a business.

Today, marketing draws upon the public relations practitioner to handle product or service introductions, work to positively affect the various stages of product life cycle, reinforce or create a new image for the organization and its products and services, and help increase sales across the board.

Marketing turns to the public relations department for assistance because that is where it finds the talent to write, manage media relations, arrange special events, create product publicity, handle sales promotion, manage consumer relations, and train spokespersons.

The Role of Marketing Public Relations

When public relations, as part of the marketing mix, is asked to focus on product publicity, it is often called 'marketing public relations.' That title distinguishes it from the other responsibilities the public relations department has for the rest of the corporation.

Publicity is only one of the many tools of public relations. It is incorrect to think that public relations is only 'publicity.' Publicity is used in many ways throughout an organization to inform, persuade, and motivate. Marketing most often uses public relations as a publicity tool and its objective is one of sales. Throughout a product's life cycle, publicity can be helpful. Publicity, therefore, is usually found at the very heart of successful marketing programs because of its unique ability to generate great awareness in a credible arena at a very low cost

If advertising is a part of the marketing plan, its reach and impact is expanded by public relations, which can reach levels within an audience category that advertising cannot, even if the organization could afford it. This is why marketing should plan its advertising and public relations at the same time, to assure that public relations can precondition the environment to accept the advertising and that public relations and advertising are delivering the same messages the same way.

Commenting on how marketing should plan advertising and public relations at the same time, Robert N. Thurston, member of the board of directors and executive committee of The Quaker Oats Company, said: "It is usually desirable to have public relations marketing specialists participate in new product planning. There are many cases where this is unnecessary, but if public relations is to play a significant part in marketing, it should be involved at least as early as the advertising agency."

Public relations deals with perceptions and attitudes of individuals and groups and motivations behind their behavior. It draws upon various types of research to measure support, apathy, skepticism, and emerging hostile environments. It advises marketing about how to negate negative attitudes, strengthen positive ones, and bring back the prodigals. It recommends and implements programs and activities to assure greater support for and success of marketing objectives.

There are occasions when the 'climate' is not positive for a business, which may be caused by a number of things. In such a climate, marketing has a difficult time accomplishing its objectives. When such times come, it calls upon public relations to stop the erosion, help restore a positive climate, and bring back customers.

Today the customer (business to business or consumer) is more powerful and sophisticated than ever before. Marketing to customers through other satisfied customers is an established reality today. Therefore, new creative ways to reach and market business to business customers and consumers are needed. At the same time, it is important that these new ways don't abandon approaches that have proven effective in the past Marketing has recognized that public relations activities are the elements of a business that most impacts on that final result* the customer's point of view. Consequently, marketing is relying more and more on public relations to find those 'new ways' of positively reaching and selling the customer.

Until 1979, he served as public relations counselor to numerous clients. In 1979, he became president of Gilbert A. Robinson, Inc., a New York public relations consulting firm. Concurrently with that position, for two years, he worked with the People's Republic of China, and was the National Executive Director of the 1980 Exhibition of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In that capacity he was chief operating officer responsible for the organization, administration and implementation of the PRC's first successful national trade and cultural exhibition in the U.S. During that same period he was involved in coordinating Ronald Reagan's announcement as a candidate for the U.S. presidency.

From 1981 85 he was partner and executive vice president of Michael Klepper Associates, a public relations firm in New York and Chicago. In 1985 he formed his own public relations counseling firm.

He is a trustee of the American Indian Institute; secretary and member of the board of directors of Laymen's National Bible Association; member of the National Advisory Board of the Utah Symphony; member of the Executive Committee of the National Council on Religion and Public Education; member of the advisory council of American Mothers, Inc.; and member of the board of directors of the Institute for Certifying Secretaries of Professional Secretaries International.

He and his family are residents of Salt Lake City, Utah.
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