By: Er. Prabhat Kishore
Public relation is the management function which evaluates public attitude, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest and executes a programme of action to learn public understanding and acceptance. According to Edward Barney’s, “Public relation councellor directs, advices upon and supervises activities of his clients which affect the interest of the public. He interprets his clients to the public and public to the clients.” Engineering of concept is the attempt by information, persuasion and by adjustment to public support for an activity, cause, movement or institutions. Sam Black defines PR as “The fundamental purpose of public relations practice is to establish a two-way flow of mutual understanding based on truth, knowledge and full information.” According to John E. Marston, “Public relations is planned, persuasive communications designed to influence significant publics.”
The evolution of public relation took place in United States of America, when a mass agitation was done between 1860-65 to 1900 for the removal of a railway track. The slogan raised there was ‘Public be informed’, which lateron became the principle of Public Relation.
Discussing the history of public relation some scholars recall the events of pre-historic days, such as ‘The Sermon of Mounts’ and other such historic happenings to prove that the tradition of public relation is very old. Inevitably, the manner in which public relation is defined today will not be appropriate to keep it in the category PR. It is true that earlier some ruling persons, Rajas, Samrats, Dharamgurus, poets & other scholars were anxious about the people verdict, but it will be appropriate to keep their effort in the category of public recreation. The system of PR evolved in the middle of 19th century when industrial revolution took place in the western countries. Before this during French revolution, the message of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity was spread over which created favourable environment for revolutionists. But this message was just the product of prevailing situation and not of the scientific thinking or of any system. On the contrary, in 20th century, the campaign work by Bolshevik revolutionists was done in more organised ways. People attention were drawn upon their posters, pamphlets, and other printouts, but that to donot fall under the current definition of PR the committee for propaganda of the faith’ of Roman Catholics or ‘Institute of propaganda’ (founded to train the priest for Dharam-prachar), which were constituted between 15th to 17th century, also not fall under the present day PR.
Actually the profession or activity of PR which we talk today has been originated in America in the middle of 19th century and was rapidly developed by the end of the century. On the statement ‘public be dammed’ of the industrialist William Henry Vanderbilt, people like Mark Twain reacted sharply as-‘Public be informed’. As much the industrialist talks on Laissez Faire, so much the people reacted and went away from them. Now a day, not only in western countries, but also in Bharat, there are Public Relation units in most of the institutions, which are lashed with dedicated workers. In central government offices, the importance of PR had already been accepted during British Raj. During Second World War ‘War Propaganda Departments’ were opened at the centre as well as in states. After independence, its necessity was felt. In the country, a lot of works like economic development and social consciousness were done which could not have succeeded without the people co-operation. As a result, the work of PR was done in a systematic way. In various states a cadre of PR experts was constituted and they were engaged in press relations, publication and other like activities. Some government information agencies are playing important role as PR agents. At one hand development of electronic Medias like Akashwani, Doordarshan, & a large number of private channels took place rapidly, on the other hand audio-visual mediums like video-films are being used frequently. Not only on national but on international level UNESCO chapter has been accepted which deals the need of independent, expanded and balanced propaganda of information to remove distinction and create harmonious environment all over the world. For fulfillment of these needs, the mass communication experts and PR worker have to play vital role. The seed, developed due to debarring of people from the right of information has now grown up in a large tree, which provides shadow of truth and discipline by removing suspicion and fear of the people. The Indians, too, are not bereft of this shadow which is appraisable for PR activities.
The objectives of PR are to inform the people with the main activities of the institutions, to highlight the special services available in the institutions, discussion of activities received by the nation and society, role of organisation in the field of research and development and to promote and propagate the human values in life.
There are four activities similar to public relation.
(1) Publicity: Publicity is often taken as synonymous with public relations. Publicity is just reporting day-to-day activity but that is not public relation. It is one-way process. For example- The government may talk of law and order today and next day the problem may concern the relief measures being provided to flood victims. On other occasion, the government may be reporting about the steps taken to improve agricultural yield. So all this is day to day reporting. But public relation stands for complete and comprehensive range of activities for projecting the organisation as a whole and not in parts.
(2) Advertising: Advertising is paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or services by an identified sponsor. It is resorted too for selling and buying both. It is not total public relation, but a tool of public relation.
Advertisement is a means by which information is dissimilated through the media print or electronic. It is used by all in general and by the business classes in particular to propagate and give information about their products in the pipeline. The government uses advertisement for giving information to the people regarding its decisions, policies, employment in the government services etc. Earlier the print media played a great role in advertisement as the voice media (Akashwani) owned by the government had not opened much for advertisement till the launching of Vividh Bharati channel and the FM band.
(3) Propaganda: According to the dictionary, ‘Propaganda means a committee of cardinals or an association for propagation of a doctrine.’ It is on record that Pope Gregory, in 14th century, set up an institution for spreading the message of the Bible. Again in the 17th century, a college of propaganda was set up by the Roman Catholic Church for counteracting the activities of the Protestants and this organisation was called ‘Institute of Propaganda’. So, propaganda initially was not considered a bad word. In fact, it was during the Second World War, only when the word ‘Propaganda’ assumed a bad connotation. Gobbles used to say that to change an environment to absorb whatever was said and one was free to distort facts or even falsify to achieve ends. So propaganda has come to mean publicity not necessarily related to realities. There is no place for such an activity in PR.
(4) Lobbing: Lobbing involves ‘educating’ selected groups of public more intensely to get their support. A lobbyist is more like an advocate holding brief for the organisation in states. In USA, lobbying is a legal activity which has been brought under the purview of a federal law. In the Senate and Congress of USA lobbyist have to register themselves under the federal law. In Russia (erstwhile USSR) lobbying is not resorted to for getting support of government functionaries. But, in different organisation, cells are created which are managed by an individual, who is designated as an ‘agitator’. His job is to lobby among the people who work with forgetting their support to policies and programmes to parties and governments.
In simple terms PR means a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. The emphasis on words ’deliberate, planned and sustained’ implies that to be successful PR activities should be planned in detail and implemented on a continuing basis rather than by a hit and miss method. It also envisages two way communications to resolve conflicts of interests for promoting correct understanding and appreciation of the work of particular organisatiom. This understanding, for a lasting effect, has to be based on truth, knowledge and full information.
Sometimes PR is bracketed with propaganda and liaison work meaning thereby that a public relation officer is meant for gaining some out of the way advantage of favour for the organisation. The function of propaganda is not to convert or make people accept an idea after evaluating it properly and being confirmed by its logical presentation. Propaganda seeks to create followers and keep them in line. Propaganda does not call for ethical conduct. A man indulging in propaganda, to suit his purpose, can destroy the facts or even falsify them. Publicity is also a one-way affair. Sometimes it is taken to be synonymous with a ‘gimmick’ or a ‘shunt’. In any case, it is a one-way affair in which the reaction of the recipients’ audience is not always considered important. In fact, there is a saying that ‘publicity kills public relations’.
In a new social order, a PR functionary is not only responsible for informing or communicating but also make himself, and the organisation for which he works, accountable to be concerned publics for what he says. The word public is being used here advisedly. It has to be clearly understood that there is not one public but ‘publics’ to be dealt with common interest groups of people like opinion leaders of society employees of an industrial organisation and consumers using its products or the shareholders. In many cases, the number of persons constituting the ‘concerned public’ in respect to an organisation becomes so large that they can be described as masses. A PR functionary, therefore, has to take recourse to the mass media for reaching out to people. That apart, in the contemporary world generally, and in democratic set-up especially media by itself is a potent force-an important public in its own right being the opinion leaders of the society. So, far a PR man the mass media is both a tool as well as target.
The target audience for a PR man can be put in to three categories: –
(1) Those who know you and like you,
(2) Those who know you and do not like you,
and (3) Those who neither know you and nor care.
The idea is to reach a position whether those who know you and donot like you change their opinion; and those who neither know you nor care wish they could meet you and do business with you. In which case you are enjoying good public relations? That is the ideal of every public relations person and is achieved through effective communications.
Summing up, PR can be defined as a managerial function which evaluates public aptitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an organisation with the public interest, and executes a programme of action and communication to earn public undertaking and acceptance. “The correct PR strategy is to (1) Inform, (2) Educate, and (3) Persuade, through effective communication, and create understanding and obtain the willing co-operation of the various such publics.
To be welcomed in, understood and remembered, a message must be designed for-(i) The mental needs, (ii) desires, and (iii) limitations of the audience.
Media psychology is the study of how people run and remember mass media information. It is a new area built on a century old foundation of learning research. Certain principles have emerged from this research which suggests an effective approach to information design. Six guidelines in a media psychology are a basic part of that design system. They are useful, everyday tools PR profession kit. Past results show these guidelines offer three major benefits to the communicators. The audience remembers more of the message. The message often has simpler design, resulting in a shorter, more interesting product. The cost effectiveness of effective mass communication is improved as the audience remembers more of the message.
It is necessary to always measure the cost in terms of money per idea remembered. A message which does not accomplish its goal of planting information in the minds of the audience is a financial disaster, no matter how beautiful the packaging is. Here are the six guidelines: – (1) Design your message for its audience, (2) Tell the audience what is important and why, (3) Use mental imagery to promote memory, (4) Don’t overload the message with information, (5) Relate new facts and its ideas with familiar ones, (6) Summarise the major points in a closing review.
The central tenet of all guidelines in information design is: (1) provide for the mental needs, (2) desires, and (3) limitations of your audience. The easier you make it for them to learn, the more they will remember.
(Author is a technocrat and educationist. He studied Journalism and Mass Communication at Patna University)
Evolution of Public Relation
By: Er. Prabhat Kishore