By Alison Gaulden
The public relations industry is ever changing and misunderstood, especially in light of so-called “alternative facts” or horrific policies such as United Airlines’ poor handling of overbooking or campaigns such as Pepsi’s misappropriation of a national racial justice movement to sell a product. Both cases negatively impact each business’ bottom-line and overall consumer confidence. Many confuse PR for “Press Release” – when there is so much more to what PR practitioners do.
Public Relations has always been about the relationships practitioners strategically build between the company and its varied publics-from clients to employees, from media to community, from donors/investors to vendors.
On any given day public relations practitioners will develop strategic plans for targeted audiences with measurable objectives, varied strategies, implementable tactics and evaluations that assess the outputs, outtakes and outcomes of the plan. The varied strategies could include:
- Employee relations-think Disney staff living the “happiest place on Earth”
- Donor/investor relations-whether not-for- profit or for those who invest need connection
- Government affairs-from addressing zoning changes to Community Development Grant Fund requests
- Community relations-educate the grassroots and/or advocate action in neighbors
- Promotion and publicity-where those press releases can come in handy
- Media relations-beyond pitching a story it’s educating reporters on your expertise and sharing
- Brand management builds the image; reputation management repairs when internal or external crises hit
Throughout the plan, PR practitioners review outputs-accounting for the tactics and each step planned; assess the outtakes to determine if they are on point or veered; and finally, weigh the results to see if attitudes changed, earnings increased, messages are repeated, or the brand is top of mind.
Social media has created tremendous transparency and innumerable platforms, as well as increased consumer awareness when campaigns go horribly awry.
Traditional media still provides links to communities and vast audiences, but reaching them becomes more challenging with new apps, improved information filters and new ways of communicating. It’s vital for companies to have professional strategic communicators such as those with Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) who can navigate these enlightened and sometimes brutally transparent times.
The APR process is similar to a one-year master’s program with peer review and a rigorous exam and consists of four steps: application, panel presentation, examination and maintenance. The application is straightforward. The panel
presentation includes completing a professional history questionnaire that demonstrates the required experience and understanding of the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities of today’s practitioner. Candidates prepare and submit a completed strategic plan and present before a panel of APRs. Assuming the candidate passes that portion, they are able to take the computer-based multiple choice exam. The final step is advocating for the profession.
Having someone in your organization who has pursued the APR provides you a senior-level strategist who has the skills and abilities to ethically advise executives or managers on how best to establish and maintain the relationships necessary to meet organizational objectives.
PRSA Sierra Nevada has more APRs per capita than the national average; its program guides practitioners on achieving their APR. Learn more and earn your APR today at praccreditation.org/apply.
Alison Gaulden, APR, MBA, is faculty at the University of Nevada, Reynolds School of Journalism. She teaches public relations/strategic communications, media ethics, and crisis communication. A PRSA member since 1997, she’s chair of PRSA North Pacific District, faculty adviser for the student chapter and APR maven for the chapter. You should see how strategy plays out in her garden.