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Public Relations Today and Tomorrow

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Making news applies to a wide range of subjects. More than a decade ago, our firm introduced a special project of broad consumer interest, "The Auditory Environment in the Home." Under a grant from one of our clients, the leading manufacturer of stereo headphones, we approached a graduate department at the University of Wisconsin which produced a completely objective study that warned that noise levels in the home were high, going higher, were potentially dangerous and being ignored.

These findings were announced at a creative news conference in New York, and a psychiatrist was retained to interpret the findings in terms of individual emotional and mental stress. Our client's president outlined reasons for his firm's involvement, called for action from fellow manufacturers, architects and interior designers. Brochures reprinting the speeches of the news meeting were distributed to influential people in industry; federal, state and local government; trade and professional associations; ecology-minded organizations and the financial community.

The response was tremendous. The New York Times and many national magazines ran stories. There were 150 requests for copies of the entire study and nearly 2000 women's clubs from around the United States wrote for a program.

Public relations can often reach into marketing areas where direct sales won't penetrate. For example, a salesperson may not be able to arrange an appointment with a physician to tell him about a new drug. On the other hand, through medical journals, public relations can obtain direct, easy access to the physician. He learns about the new drug without contact with the salesperson.

Public relations can enlist employees in the performance of the selling function by identifying them with it. In the "We're Glad You're Here" slogan, part of a National Restaurant Association campaign, personnel of participating restaurants wore colorful buttons with that slogan. This linked them not only with the restaurant's policy, but with a general atmosphere in the city that had been created through supporting proclamations and activities from the city fathers and the tourist bureau.

With an economy marked by high interest rates, inflation and high rates of unemployment, many industries have been forced to cut back or lay off employees. The costs of advertising and general merchandising has been increasing, yet the product managers must get nationwide coverage which the profit-squeezed budget is no longer able to afford.

In this situation, marketing publicity takes up the slack. Furthermore, in enlarging the public impact of the product message, it can and does improve the productivity of the advertising dollar.

We do not have to be reminded that we live in an age of discontent and dissent and disbelief which throws suspicion on the advertising, packaging and sales claims made for products. There may be no way to reassure the consumer expect to show the product demonstrated or to let her or him read about its benefits in an editorial setting.

Public relations also gives valuable feedback from the arbiters of social taste and consumer spending habits. When you plan a marketing public relations program, you are, in a very real sense, conducting a market research project. You contact those editors and commentators who report regularly to the buyers of your product, and these are the people who must be attracted to your product, not only because they buy it themselves, but also because they have status as thought leaders.

Product producers will be trying out their ideas on such communicators and get invaluable feedback. Furthermore, they can ask questions about the market and can be certain of receiving objective opinions. These people can appraise your markets with more accuracy than any other source- even better than the consumers themselves.

Marketing is a powerful tool, which must be properly utilized for maximum effectiveness. As public relations specialists, we must admonish corporate leaders to make public relations product publicity a part of their total marketing plan; they must realize that these are essential components. Public relations must be given a place at the conference table, from the very beginning. The public relations and advertising persons must be teammates dedicated to the same mission rather than rivals.

We must convince the highest echelon of corporate America not to cheat public relations in the marketing budget. It may buy more for the buck, but it buys nothing unless it is done by experienced, bright and creative people-and that means well-paid people.

Furthermore, public relations has to be just as attractively designed and packaged as anything else in the sales kit. The entire job must be done with the highest level of expertise, because that is always the most effective, and therefore economical, way to do it.

Public relations and marketing themselves must be sold or merchandised, and that is at least as important as merchandising a final product. Without selling good public relations and top-flight marketing, a firm cannot adequately sell its product. Don't take anything for granted. Keep selling yourself and the products. Get the word out that you are good at public relations.

Use public relations as the primary vehicle for marketing yourselves and products. It is the power that makes the difference.
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