Effective public relations are a process and its essential first step is research. Nowadays, research is widely accepted by public relations professionals as an integral part of the planning, program development, and evaluation process. Before a public relations program is undertaken, information must be gathered, data collected, and interpretation done. Only after the first step is performed, organizations can begin to make policy decisions and map out strategies for effective communication programs.
The second step in the public relations process, after research, is program planning. Prior to the implementation of a public relations activity, it is essential that considerable thought must be given to what should be done and in what sequence to accomplish an organization’s objectives.
A good public relations program should be an effective tool to support an organization’s business, marketing, and communications objectives. In other words, public relations planning should be strategic. A practitioner must think about a situation, analyze what can be done about it, creatively conceptualize the appropriate strategies and tactics, and determine how the results will be measured. Planning also involves the co-ordination of multiple methods to achieve specific results.
Developing a systematic planning prevents haphazard, ineffective communication that may result in unexpected outcomes. Thus, public relations managers need to follow a well-designed program plan that will help them execute their programs effectively and provide the desired results after the completion of the public relations program.
Moreover, business communications, especially those introduced by public relations departments, can present ethical questions. False and misleading advertising is illegal and unethical, and it can infuriate customers. Sponsors and advertisements aimed at children must be very careful to avoid misleading messages. Advertisers of health-related products must also take precautions to guard against deception when using such descriptive terms as “low fat”, “fat free2, and “light”. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has issued recent guidelines on the use of these labels.
Finally, public relations companies have introduced the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is the recognition that business activities have an impact on society and the consideration of that impact in business decision-making. Obviously, social responsibility costs money. It is perhaps not so obvious that social responsibility is also good business. Customers eventually find out which firm is acting responsibly and which does not. Young public relations professionals should always keep in mind, that just as easily as consumers decide to cast their dollar votes for a product produced by a company that is socially responsible, they can vote against the firm that is not.