Magazine article Marketing

The Bigger Picture

Magazine article Marketing

The Bigger Picture

Article excerpt

Sheer hype, a tool for promotion, or something more? Laura Mazur explores marketers' views of PR -- and asks whether they grasp its potential

Do marketers understand how to use public relations? Considering the mountain of unused press releases decorating the desks of most journalists -- next to the growing pile of unwatched corporate videos -- it seems many of them do not. It is hardly surprising.

In the marketing armoury, public relations is the least easy weapon to define. It can be hype. Or, in its more serious guise as a relationship-building tool, it can cover a staggering variety of assignments, ranging from launching a new brand to setting up and running a telephone line for a product recall; from aligning the image of the corporate and product brands to lobbying the EC against a proposed directive and determining ways to foster relationships with local schools.

According to Dr Jon White, a consultant and visiting professor of public affairs at City University Business School, many marketing professionals view public relations mainly as a promotional tool: "I think marketers will probably claim that they do understand public relations. They will see it very much as promotion and marketing support."

But he emphasises: "It has a much broader contribution to make. It should be about creating a more favourable environment in which marketing activities can be more successful."

PR can be misunderstood even when used in its basic form to generate publicity, argues White. "Publicity is seen as something that somehow has to be forced out of journalists. What you are really dealing with is a negotiation of interests, where journalists have an interest in getting information and public relations people working on behalf of organisations have an interest in releasing information in ways that will be beneficial to the organisation," he says. "One of the biggest failings in media relations is that journalists are not targeted properly. Journalists get frustrated by what they are offered by public relations people, and the relationship becomes antagonistic because the practitioners have failed to target, understand and respond to those interests." The growing trend towards relationship marketing is putting a spotlight on the use of public relations. This emphasis on forging close relations between brands and consumers by creating a dialogue becomes even more important at a time when premium brands are coming under such pressure from own-labels.

John Williams, a founder-director of Fishburn Hedges, finds increasing understanding by marketers of how to use PR effectively to build brands. …

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