For some time, executives have viewed public relations as a soft discipline of questionable value to a company’s bottom line. However, recently, the reputation of public relations has been supported by the metrics that are pressed in every marketing initiative. “They don’t always understand that there are a variety of steps required to get media attention. At times I’ve run into a general lack of clarity about how the things I do on a daily basis connect to public relations,” says Renee Deger, public relations manager. at Loyalty Lab in San Francisco.

Public relations is a strategic process used to develop a comprehensive communication plan to reach your target audience. The company’s message is received by its audience using strategies and tactics created based on research. It is essential that an effective public relations plan is in place for any sales and marketing company to reach its full potential.

By starting with what public relations professionals call SWOT analysis, a company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats can be addressed. This research is necessary to establish future business avenues to explore. Short-term and long-term objectives must also be considered to ensure that a clear and consistent message is delivered.

A useful model used in the public relations process is the ROPE theory. Research fundamentals, objectives, planning, and evaluation are thoroughly examined to develop an effective communications plan. These elements help guide the campaign.

Research is the first step in this strategic process, followed by setting realistic goals, planning and executing, and finally evaluating the campaign to fine-tune areas that need improvement. The target market of a company is identified and located. Quantitative (eg, surveys) and qualitative (eg, focus groups) research methods can then be carried out to later develop an effective strategy to better reach this audience. Who and where your potential audience (s) are and how you reach them. Whether it’s television, radio, or print ads, each market has its own preferences and should be known before creating any tactical materials.

For example, press releases market a company’s involvement, success, or services in an industry; therefore, it receives more interviews from the media than from its competitors. This is just one example of how public relations can save a company from going into unprofitable business. All companies can benefit from a more profitable approach to doing business.

Additionally, strategic public relations can be critical in addressing risk and crisis management. A company’s reputation with the public can make or break future networking opportunities. With a strategic plan in place, sensitive issues can be handled in a more sensitive manner, resulting in a more favorable position for the company.

Al Maag, currently the communications director for Phoenix-based electronic components supplier Avnet, joined the company for his first term of public relations service. His responsibilities fell under the heading of “communications,” but the CEO at the time favored advertising and other disciplines that had a set budget and broad acceptance over the softer practice of public relations.

“No one at our company spoke to the press in those days,” he tells Monster contributing writer Kelly Shermach. “The management didn’t understand it, they didn’t appreciate it, they didn’t care.” This was not just Maag’s impression. The CEO made it clear to him that public relations did not have a place on his priority list.

Maag convinced Avnet’s CEO that public relations created the demand its salespeople needed, as well as maintaining its public image and leverage with shareholder investments. Now Avnet managers “know it’s their job,” Maag says, to create good news that can be shared with the public. “Most people believe in journalism more than advertising.”

Effective public relations help build stronger and more mutually beneficial relationships with current and future clients. Loyal customers are the most valuable asset of a company and must be carefully preserved. As stated in Monster Career Advice, with good public relations, even managers struggling with small advertising budgets can generate sales leads.

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