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Public Relations Fields

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All of the functions mentioned in the preceding chapter are used at one time or another by the different organizations and businesses that depend upon public relations. Each organization has different needs and goals, and the public relations worker faces the challenge of adapting public relations principles and tactics to the organization he serves.

Corporate Public Relations

The majority of public relations workers are employed by corporations. Depending upon the size of the company and the industry it serves, the public relations staff could be anything from a one-person department to an entire in-house facility the size of a public relations agency.

As we said earlier, every company is different. Beyond size, each caters to a separate market and produces different products and services. The public relations tactics for an international oil company are far different from those used by a clothing manufacturer, supply company or recording company. While the businesses and products differ, public relations fundamentals and practices remain the same. It's just a question of adapting those principles and practices to the needs of the industry or company you're working for. Let's take a look at some of the different types of businesses that rely on public relations.

Large Versus Small Retailers

A large urban department store, for example, requires both internal and external public relations. Both are vitally important to insure continued growth. Good internal public relations are necessary because the store's personnel work closely with customers and it's important that a good working rapport exist at all times.

Public relations workers might take an informal survey of workers to see how they feel about their work and to find out whether they are satisfied with company policies regarding retirement benefits, vacations and promotions. If the surveys are well prepared and professionally administered, much good can come from them. Often management will learn that the majority of salespeople are dissatisfied with the commission structure, pointing up the need for a restructuring of outdated commission arrangements. By suggesting the change, the public relations staff will have set the wheels in motion to improve relations between employees and management. This encourages a better on-the-job performance by the workers.

Externally, the public relations staff has an even bigger job. Needless to say, the department store is not the only retail outlet in the city. There are least five other comparably large department stores along with hundreds of smaller retail establishments throughout the city. And they're all competing in a number of sales areas. There are small discount clothing stores downtown, for example, that slash prices regularly in order to attract customers who normally frequent department stores. There are also large warehouse-type appliance stores that sell merchandise at hefty dis counts all year long. No matter where you look, our large department store faces a lot of competition.

To combat the competition, the store's public relations team is hard at work devising store wide promotions, improving community relations and designing strategies to improve the store's image. How is it going to accomplish all that? Because the competition is so fierce, the store's management and public relations staff agree that it's important to do far more than sell merchandise in order to succeed. One solution is a number of strong promotional campaigns that will improve the store's image. One such campaign is a store-sponsored band concert on the Fourth of July. What better way to lure potential customers to the store than a free concert at the entrance to the store? Anyone is free to stop, listen and watch, and leave at any point. No one is obligated to buy a thing. The festive event creates a favorable store image that is not to be forgot ten so quickly.

As for community relations, the store's management decided to contribute a large amount of money to start a day-care center in a poor section of the city. This well-thought-out strategy ultimately works to the advantage of the store and the community. When customers hear of the contribution, they will view the store as more than just another retail establishment. Now it is a store with a social conscience, one that has an obligation to the community.

So you see, each of the public relations campaigns strengthens the store's position within the city. Each one ultimately helps to boost sales.

The Public Relations of Banks

Imagine working in a business where the product offered is basically the same and the cost of the product varies little, if at all. The banking industry is unusual in this way because the product, money, is dealt with in pretty much the same manner by most banks. And what's more, banking has long been a conservative industry that prides itself on communicating a low-key image. Ask ten people to describe five major banking institutions in their city and chances are they'll describe each one in much the same way. It's not hard to see why banks go out of their way to create a new image that separates one bank from another. To accomplish that end, they are spending more on public relations than they ever did in the past.

The public relations staff of a large metropolitan bank faces certain limitations that are unique to this industry. Whatever strategies are undertaken must conform to banking's conservative image. Because the product is money, something everyone cherishes and works so hard to earn, customers prefer a sedate and conservative image for the sturdy institutions that protect their money.

One important job public relations workers have undertaken is to soften banking's image and change the facade of these once-cold institutions. Next time you visit your neighborhood bank, take a look at the interior and the exterior of the building. Quite possibly the bank is located on a cheerful business street that is convenient to most people in the area. Inside you'll find modern furnishings, carpeted floors, comfortable furniture and an inviting decor. The bank's officers, tellers and even the security guards are going to go out of their way to be as friendly as possible. This all boils down to effective public relations.

A public relations campaign designed for a bank or a chain of banks, for example, might have a number of primary goals. Other than changing and lightening the image, it tries to personalize banking services and even involve the bank in community affairs. PR campaigns have ranged from special holiday programs, refreshments and entertainment served at bank openings to gifts for new depositors and fund-raising drives for worthwhile community projects.
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