In today’s competitive and critical market situation where being the best is essential to survive, public relations is of utmost significance. All companies need to have an edge and stand out from the rest of the crowd by doing something which is more interesting and appealing to both the media and the public. Interest is concerned with both the public and the media because public is the buyer of the product and media is responsible for selling it.
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The focus of public relations is less on the advertising and more on providing valuable and true information to the public. It’s often better and easier to educate an individual in order to make him able to recognize his wants and needs rather than attempting to directly sell a product. The main purpose of public relations department is to boost a company’s reputation and protect the company from any harm in terms of reputation. Public relations involves the use of a variety of communication channels and tools in order to create an image for a company or product through stories in print or broadcast media.
Public relations includes:
Building a flattering and positive image for a company.
Closely monitoring the media channels for any remarks or public comments made about a company and its respective product.
Crisis management, to protect a company or product against a threat.
Building goodwill among an organisation’s target market through special programs and events.
PUBLIC RELATION TOOLS
The key tools for public relations include:
Before choosing the apt tool from above it is essential to first identify the target audience and the key message which is to be sent. The aim of key message is to provide a steady point of view over time and across numerous public relation methods that reinforce product positioning and reach the target audience.
OBJECTIVES OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
The objectives of public relations are plenty .Some of the major ones are:
Building Product Awareness
When an existing product is relaunched or a new product is introduced in the market, marketers can use public relations to create awareness among the customers through media and special events.
Whether a public relation placement is a short product article or included with other products, stories in the media create interest in the minds of the targeted audience and they feel compelled to try out the product. For instance during the holiday season , special holiday food is promoted with public relations through special events that sample the product.
Public relations provide in depth information to the people about the products and services provided by a company through the articles, websites, newsletters and collateral material so that they get a better understanding of the product.
An optimistic or rather positive article in the newspaper, magazine , website or TV news show results in an increase in the sales of product.
Reinforcing the Brand
It is very essential to build a good image for the company because it helps in building the business and it also helps the company in the time of crises. In several companies the public relations function is also involved with brand reinforcement by maintaining positive relations with the key audiences and thus aiding in building a strong image.
PUBLIC RELATIONS SIGNIFICANCE IN MARKETING
A certain company’s competitor may offer the exact same product to the customers but the perception created in the mind of the people about the two companies compels the person to chose the better provider. In order to create a perception of something ‘extra’ in the minds of people makes the product much more exclusive and valuable. Public relations is the medium which helps what extras can be put to the product and then finally puts the plan in action to make this created perception a reality in the minds of the customers.
If the company has a decided goal, vision and mission does not necessarily means that the customers will see the company in a positive way. It can be very hard to look into your organization from the outside to see how you look to others. It is necessary to convey the vision in such a way that others understand clearly. This is again where PR comes in. It is the buffer or lens between the organization and the outside world that helps it to be seen clearly and in the best light.
Understanding and Value
The customers outside can’t really understand an organization and what do they have to offer. It’s very difficult for them to predict that how valuable a certain product is for them because they have nothing to base value on. Public relations help in creating an understanding that allows the customers to determine the value of what it’s worth to them.
Public relations help immensely in shifting the focus away from the issues causing irrational trouble and placing it on the constructive issues that are important in finding a solution. For instance when there is a sudden outbreak of illness a lot of misinformation goes out to the common public that is based on half truth and not on reality. Public relations plays a very significant role in handling the situation and keeping it under control which is referred to as the crisis management done by PR.
ADVANTAGES OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Public relations offer several advantages which are not found with other promotional options.
Public relations is considered to be a very reliable form of promotion. One of the important aspects of public relations is that it establishes credibility for a product by capitalizing on the influence third-party — the media. For example, a positive story about a new product in the business section of a local newspaper may have greater impact on readers than a full-page advertisement for the product since readers perceive the news media as presenting an impartial perspective of the product.
Due to the well structured public relations campaign , the target market gets exposed to a more detailed picture than received from other forms of promotion.
Although public relations is not exactly done at a low cost but when compared to other promotional efforts it is less expensive.
DISADVANTAGES OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Just like everything in this world although public relations have advantages it also has many disadvantages .
It can’t make sure whether the message has been delivered effectively. For example, a marketer may spend several hours talking with a magazine writer , only to find that their company is never mentioned in the article.
While other promotional messages are carefully crafted and distributed, public relations generally conveys information to a person (say a member of the news media) who then further recrafts the information .The end result is that the final impact or rather information may not be precisely what the marketer planned.
With public relations there is always a chance that a news event might get bumped because of a more critical breaking news, such as severe weather, serious crime or wars.
In some areas of the world the impact of traditional news is fading forcing public relations to find new and better ways to reach their target market.
EFFECTIVE PUBLIC RELATIONS CAMPAIGN
Effective public relations is a way to popularize a company as compared to other marketing methods such as advertising. The main goal of public relations is to present the company in the media and to communicate the company’s perspective to the world outside. Explaining with an example – when a fest is organized in the college, there is requirement of a PR team which is responsible for the publicity of the event. The PR team makes sure that all the details about the events is provided to the students and they are also in charge for all the media coverage of the entire event.
An effective PR campaign is not very easy. A lot of research work needs to be done before. First of all it is very necessary to build a story that creates interest in the minds of the company also having the potential of giving something new and innovative to the customers. Thus if the company really needs to propel to a new level altogether then it is quite essential to hire a PR team. This is done to ensure that the company can connect with the masses and the business is not a failure. How to be better than the others and being projected in a new light is the job of the PR agency which is hired by the company.
In order to explain the way in which a PR agency works, I have taken the examples of Madison and Weber Shandwick agencies.
Weber Shandwick is the India joint venture of Weber Shandwick, a unit of The Interpublic Group of Companies. Since its inception in 1992, Weber Shandwick has played a leading role in the development of the public relations industry in India. Weber Shandwick is one of the most successful public relations agency in the world. It’s success is built on its deep commitment to client service, creativity, collaboration and harnessing advocates power. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial and crisis management.
Strengths of Weber Shandwick
It offers a wide range of PR services including strategic support, crisis management, secured development, presentation development, seminars, conferences, product launches, integrated marketing and web promotions.
Weber shandwick’s practices help the companies in building strong relationship with the audiences through innovative online campaigns. So basically the companies can reach and retain the audiences by using a combination of web and digital channels .
It has the ability of suggesting cost effective strategies which are beneficial for the companies in the long term.
It has a nationwide reach and a very sincere commitment to meet the target.
Weber Shandwick has been recognized as PR week’s 2009 global agency report card gold medal winner and large PR firm of the year by PR news in 2008. It has also achieved the UN Grand award for outstanding achievements in public relations in India.
It won the McDonald’s International Global Award for the best public relations launch program in India in 1997, a Bronze Award for WHO ORS campaign in 2003 and IPRA Golden Award 2007.
It has a long list of clients and it believes in working with the best names in the business. Some of the major clients include names like McDonald’s, Unilever, Hero Honda Motors, P&G/Gillette, Sony, Moser Baer, Adobe, Agilent Technologies, WHO-ORS Campaign, Apollo Clinics, Mankind Pharma in the Healthcare practice, American Airlines, Tourism Australia etc.
‘Drop Sugar for a Healthy Honeylicious Life’ campaign was launched in 2008 to tap the huge potential of honey market in India to emerge as the market leader. The campaign was started with special features and tie ups in national as well as regional media on the use of honey in Indian cooking. The campaign was judged as the ‘Best campaign across the Indian Sub-continent’, a category which had almost 400 entries.
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Weber Shandwick basically developed the campaign with a focus to raise a debate on the sugar versus honey issue creating an awareness on the goodness of honey for a much better and a healthy lifestyle. This was done to link the benefits of honey to the brand of Dabur. The campaign received a fantastic media response during the launch and it fetched a dramatic sales increase for Dabur by 26% in 2008 and it also managed to maintain the number 1 position in the market.
The impact of the campaign by Weber Shandwick was very strong and there was a variety of honey recipes and articles available on the benefits of honey and its usage on daily basis for a healthy lifestyle and tremendously increased the sales.
Weber Shandwick’s campaign for P&G which launched Gilette’s mach 3 razor in India won the ‘launch of a new product’ at the IPRA’s golden awards and it was the only winner from India. Public relations is the key pillar in marketing campaigns and also the source of holistic ideas.Weber shandwick is solely responsible for bringing this idea in real life and building the equity of Gilette mach 3.
The campaign used the results of a survey conducted previously which stated that 80% of the women prefer clean shaven men. This led to the ‘Shave India movement’ which tried to convince all men to shave. In this campaign almost 2500 men shaved their beards using the mach razor which was recorded in Guinness and Limca book of world records.
Madison PR is one of the fastest growing PR agencies with a prestigious client list including Cafe Coffee Day, Godrej, Procter & Gamble, Levis etc. It has offices in Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai and offers management services including media training and research services.
Madison’s focus is on creating an effective brand campaign everytime with strong teamwork and sincere commitment. Their motto is to try new and adventurous things in order to explore creative possibilities. Because of all these reasons it has clients from different industries and sectors. The firm’s core strength is to focus on the corporate clients and to provide quality services at the apt time and expanding the business with preciseness. As part of delivering innovative services Madison has started designing brochures, newsletters and arranging events in order to meet the needs of the clients.
Strengths of Madison
It has a thorough and complete understanding of the business and the ability to recommend intelligent and innovative strategies.
It has a very strong media support due to a close rapport with them.
They have the capability and commitment to meet the deadlines.
It has a quick response time and a nation wide reach through a network of associates.
Progress of Madison in recent years
Madison PR is growing tremendously in the recent years. It has bagged clients such as GoAir, Godrej, Britannia, Parle Agro and Asia motorworks Ltd in the last few months. It also handles Walmart activities in India when required. Madison is really trying to have these famous names in its portfolio and looking forward to work for them by creating impactful and innovative campaigns. By having such an impressive client list Madison is surely progressing and creating a brand name for itself.
Such is the trust on Madison’s capability that it has been given the responsibility of handling all the brands of Parle Agro including Frooti, Saint juice, Appy fizz, Bailey, Grappo fizz and also the confectionary brands including buttercup candies, mintrox mints, buttercup softease and Hippo, launched in 2009.
Britannia is the market leader in the organized biscuits and bakery products segment and it has been consistently delighting the customers with its range of delicious biscuits, dairy products and breads.
In 2009 Britannia had launched Nutri choice health stater kit to help the consumers to make health resolutions with a new year. The kit contained Nutrichoice 5grain, Nutrichoice spice cracker, Nutrichoice digestive, a free 7 day talwarkar’s gym pass, a fit sipper bottle and a comprehensive health diet chat from a diet expert and it was priced at just mere Rs100.
With the new year around the corner, it was the best opportunity to leverage the initiative wit the media. Rather than having a conventional press at a hotel venue, Madison PR organized a press conference in the Britannia office itself with Rahul Dravid as the brand ambassador of Nutrichoice, who shared his mantra for health and advised the media to make the country healthy.
Madison’s idea of having such a quality media exposure helped Britannia receive a very positive response from the consumers on the innovative offering and it was a runaway success.
PROCTER AND GAMBLE
When P&G had decided to launch Sanitary napkin Whisper ultra in India in early 2000, Madison was responsible for creating excitement in the launch. There was a comparatively low market penetration of the product because even in the urban areas only 4 out of every 10 females used sanitary napkins. In such a predicament, Whisper ultra which was five times thinner than any other napkin in the market was launched as one of the most expensive product.
Launch – day 1
Whisper Ultra was launched in St. Xavier Institute, Mumbai campus. This was the first ever student organized product launch . This launch was made a part of the public relations course and a press conference was also arranged.
Launch – day 2
On day 2 of the launch the Procter & Gamble employees gathered and set out in several vehicles to cover approximately 7000 retail outlets where they conducted demos and placed 40,000 packets in shops. This sort of campaign was never done before but Madison arranged everything in order to make sure that no stone is left unturned in the publicity of the product.The campaign was intelligent, innovative and it led to the return on investment of 100:1.
The campaign was extremely successful and it led to the increase in the market share of Whisper Ultra to 44% and 29% by volume share just within 3 months of the launch.
The need for public relations is growing day by day. We all know that companies spend a huge amount of money on the advertising of a certain product and still there is no assurance that the advertisement might work well and whether the audience will actually find the product to be useful the way it has been projected in the ad. This is the reality of the world. Both the private sector and the government have realized that advertisement must be accompanied with an effective PR. This can help to satisfy the need and expectations of the customer and also create a favourable image which advertising sometimes can’t do.
Public relations is required by all the organizations in India to create awareness about the credibility of their respective products. Not only in our country but even on the international front the huge success of brands like Red Bull, Microsoft Windows95, Linux and Zara can be attributed to the intelligent, strategic and innovative PR campaigns.
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