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Public Relations and People in Their Communities

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Virtually every organization in the country uses some form of public relations. Community activists, proponents of nearly every social cause, virtually every level of government and large corporations, all try to convey their messages through public relations.

Social Activist Concerns

For example, when one of Ralph Nader's consumer groups decides to state its views for or against a product, it does so through a well-orchestrated public relations campaign. It wastes no time telling the major news media about its point of view. Above all, this group wants to get its message across to a large number of people, and the best way to do that is to attract the attention of large-circulation newspapers and television stations in the nation's largest cities. And often, all it takes to do this is a simple, well-written, factually-correct press release.



When certain groups utilize public relations techniques, they are initiating the dissemination of a certain point of view. For example, when the citizens' lobby Common Cause want its thousands of members to lobby senators and congressmen to vote for certain piece of legislation, they do not wait for opposite viewpoints to be expressed in order to react. Instead, Common Cause seizes the initiative and starts the lobbying process.

Primarily armed with a highly-educated membership, this grass roots group attempts to influence members of congress by calling and writing to them. This is what public relations is all about-individuals or groups putting forth their message in order to influence others.

Other citizen groups initiate public relations activities, socials, school fairs and civic events, pamphlets extolling the mayor's accomplishments were widely distributed. Though only a cursory glance was sufficient to realize that the city had been made tidy, a professional public relations campaign had to be conducted in order to associate that cleanliness with the mayor.

With such visable results, it was not necessary, nor advisable, to attribute false accomplishments to the mayor. No reputable firm would consider such an assignment anyway. Instead, efforts were begun to identify these results with Marion Barry, Jr.

This type of campaign is especially satisfying to the professional public relations practitioner because the results speak for themselves. No exaggeration was necessary. Getting out the news concerning what had taken place simply required straightforward reporting. The entire community was pleased, the firm which produced the pamphlets was justifiably proud of its product, and the results of the upcoming mayoral election, still six months in the fixture, proved the results.

Education

Schools, both public and private, depend on public relations to promote their educational activities. For example, private schools and colleges, to make the case for their higher fees, print and distribute sophisticated brochures for prospective students, emphasizing the advantages they offer. Sometimes, the school's staff designs, writes and prints these pamphlets, but oftentimes, to ensure professionalism, schools hire outside experts to help with their mission.

On a more basic level, everyday school fund-raising is public relations. Spring fairs and fall festivals organized by parents involve much time in getting their message across.

Time-consuming posting of leaflets on telephone poles around the neighborhoods, coupled with radio and television messages, supplement the efforts of the students who, with good intentions, don't always carry news to those who should receive it.

Entertainment

No segment of society is more public relations conscious than the entertainment industry. Movies, television and theatre rely on public relations as their life blood to create a larger-than-life image. Of course, public relations can't sell a bad television program, movie or Broadway play, but it can help. And it can aid in appealing to a larger number of viewers. Public relations gets people talking about the production's reputation, and word of mouth draws more customers. Nevertheless, when movies cost millions of dollars to make, reliance on word of mouth to create crowds at the box office is not sufficient to guarantee the film's success.

In the movie industry, no matter how financially successful a movie turns out to be, and regardless of the popularity of its leading actors, nothing is taken for granted in terms of guaranteeing maximum public relations between the industry and the general movie-going public.

Have you ever asked yourself how local film critics receive excerpts from the best parts of movies, neatly prepared on videotape? And how do ordinary people hear about films? In today's youth-oriented film industry, inordinately large numbers of young people make up the viewing audience. Efforts to sell the movies are directed specifically at them- ticket promotions on rock radio stations and stars' appearances on Saturday Night Live are part of this effort.

One of the world's greatest movie promotion events is the Academy Awards. With the glamour, the stars, the suspense and the legions of movie fans, it might seem that public attention is virtually guaranteed. Yet to make sure that millions of people see a well-run, first-class performance, conveying a true, positively perceived impression, a sophisticated public relations campaign begins well in advance of the Academy Awards ceremony night. And on Oscar night itself, press coverage is organized to reach the waiting world through the press with maximum efficiency.
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