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Is It All Noise?

What Matters in Public Relations


Information, Meaning and Noise Series Center for Science and Society Bryn Mawr College March 25, 2004

Testing the Noise Theory


Entertainment/Arts/Fashion Politics Manufacturers Nonprofits

Public Relations
Definition Goal Measurement

The Noise Theory:

All Publicity Is Good Publicity

Theory: All Publicity Is Good Publicity


Entertainment/Arts/Fashion Industry Standard:

Yes
Lowest common denominator Outlandish behavior as marker of creativity and means to end Celebrity gossip Low-level scandal Repentance and forgiveness Exception: allegation or conviction of heinous crime

Theory: All Publicity Is Good Publicity


Politics Standard:

Yes and No
Conflict is good for voters and the media Allegations of bad anything are damaging because they sow seeds of doubt The higher the office, the less likely the holder will apologize for mistakes A difference between politics and public relations the role of ethics Effects of cumulative damage

Theory: All Publicity Is Good Publicity


Manufacturing Standard:

Yes and No
Product introduction Product failure or serious side effect How corporations handle disasters varies widely

Theory: All Publicity Is Good Publicity


Nonprofit Standard:

No
Public good trumps all Higher-education presidents are perceived as most credible leaders in U.S. Cannot afford to squander reputation The more selective the institution, the more selective the media in which the institution wants to be seen

Defining Public Relations


"Public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends." Cutlip and Center, Effective Public Relations

Not marketing An exchange; a quid pro quo transaction Narrow public customer, consumer or client, not all publics Truth telling and stretching

Defining Public Relations


"Public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends." Cutlip and Center, Effective Public Relations Not advertising Payment Complete control of message and placement Truth telling and not (bait and switch, going out of business, etc.) Not publicity merely information transfer Not just media relations although that's most visible piece

Defining Public Relations


"Public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends." Cutlip and Center, Effective Public Relations Two key elements of the definition: Large number of publics Our success depends on them.

Therefore: Reputation is everything. Ethical imperative: Tell the truth, and do the right thing.

The goal of public relations is behavioral change.


Moving the meter Quality, not quantity, of media relations
a) Coverage in desirable media about topics important to the organization b) Avenues of media coverage and preferred mode c) Our targets are influencers of prospective students, potential or current donors and opinion leaders d) Prospective students are mainly indirect targets in media relations. e) The competition

How public relations tactics help reach prospective students


Media relations: teen magazines, Web sites, College search publications
BMC Web site messages, organization and design Communicating the positioning statement

Measuring the Effectiveness of Public Relations


Meaningless: Number of releases Number of impressions: the clip book Number of event attendees

Meaningful: Qualitative and quantitative research to measure opinion before and after change Message recall Comparison to competitors Moving the meter: influencers take action recruit or make a gift

Is It All Noise? Emphatically no.


What Matters in Public Relations
Healthy relationships with all publics on whom our success depends Bringing about desired opinion and behavioral change Telling the truth and doing the right thing