For example, when a United States Congressional member mails her or his newsletter each month to constituents, this is practicing public relations. How? Through the newsletter, the senator or representative gains valuable exposure. Constituents notice not only the person's name, but also his photograph. The newsletter also describes legislative accomplishments, emphasizing activities which the congressperson feels will be important to the potential voters in the congressional district.
By emphasizing the positive, in terms of her or his legislative efforts, the member of Congress is practicing public relations. Succinctly, the person is enhancing her or his reputation and image in the public's eye. And that means, most of all, that he or she is projecting a positive or favorable image to those eligible to vote the next time that he or she runs for office.
There are many other examples of public relations in everyday life. Once a week, in major newspapers, food sections run feature stories on a wide range of topics. For example, one may read a piece on the health hazards of salt or the nutritional value of 2% milk. Although both are feature stories, they have significant educational components and serve as public relations vehicles.
They impart health information directly beneficial to the reader or consumer. By conveying this knowledge to hundreds of thousands of readers, a newspaper may shower invaluable rewards on companies and industries mentioned in the articles. After reading the pieces, the reader concludes, consciously or unconsciously, that the company mentioned in the article has performed a good deed, thus enhancing its image.
No better example of the use of public relations exists than a guest appearance on a television talk show. With approximately 40,000 books being published each year in the United States, editors, literary agents and publishers compete vigorously to book their authors to appear on such shows. Local programs are desirable, but national ones - especially The Tonight Show, The Today Show and Donahue-are coveted most.
Why? With an audience of millions of people, an appearance on such a show creates huge numbers of potential buyers. Book sales often take off noticeably after a successful talk show appearance. But once an author discusses her or his book on one of these shows, even if only for a minute or two, he or she has piqued the interest of many, many listeners. using methods similar to those of large corporations. To influence legislation or to urge a new national thrust, the NAACP, the labor unions and the National Organization for Women (NOW) select specific public relations tools.
Public Relations in Government
In addition to United States senators and congressmen, virtually every segment of government uses public relations. In fact, its use on the state or local level is not essentially different from the way in which it is used nationally. For example, when a state legislator from southern Illinois introduces legislation to benefit the coal industry, he announces it to his constituents, not unlike the way the senator from Nebraska let his entire state know what he had accomplished toward raising milk price supports.
Local public officials also distribute press releases, position papers and arrange television appearances in order to get their messages across. For example, in Washington D.C., where national news almost dominates the headlines, Mayor Marion Barry commanded prominent newspaper and television attention when he announced his campaign to clean up the city's garbage.
In early winter 1982, Washington D.C. installed portable "supercans" at every District residence. Foolproof, in terms of spillage and uninvited opening from raccoons, each can had the capacity of four regular garbage cans. While property of the city, each supercan was numbered and "belonged" to the resident at no charge.
Soon after this system was adopted, alleys and streets became spotless, and subway conversation turned from national budget and economic issues to how clean the city had become. And Mayor Barry, who was running for re-election, took full credit for cleaning it up.
Sports is also a form of entertainment. Newspapers, magazines and television devote almost as much space to sports as to national politics. Yet sports teams are private businesses, managed for their owners' profit. This circumstance involves public relations at a high level-justifying athletes' high salaries, encouraging attendance for winning and losing teams, arranging appearances for players to personalize the team's public image and creating special events (like Boy Scout nights, left-handed-people days, etc.) to keep interest alive when the play on the field is dull.
Public relations is used in high school sports too. By posting an announcement about a basketball game between two local schools, ordinary citizens are practicing public relations at a very basic level.
Through these examples, we have seen that the average American, as well as large governmental, movie and sports organizations can enjoy highly sophisticated public relations skills. Every day we come in contact with some form of public relations. And we are not often aware of it.
Through these examples, showing how the "person next door" has direct access to public relations activities, we trust you'll agree public relations is available to everyone, not only to large governmental or corporate institutions.