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Chapter 1

PR 664 Chapter 1: SM

Public Relations
Course Code
PR 664
Robert Dittmer

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Chapter 1 (Stacks and Michaelson) Introduction to Research and Evaluations in Public
The early days of public relations functions—limited to media relations and “press agentry”—
have evolved to a sophisticated array of communications where public relations is no longer an
afterthought, but is an integral part of the communications mix.
A central reason for this change in the perceptions of and stature of public relations in the
communications world is the inclusion of research, measurement, and evaluation as a core part
of the practicetools that have been integral to the practice of marketing and advertising for
Defining Public Relations and Its Objectives
Why exactly is this profession called public relations?
Public relations is one of the three promotional areas that management uses to get its
message out: marketing, advertising, and public relations.
What has differentiated them in the past can be viewed in terms of:
(a) what a business expects it to do
(b) the kinds of outcomes it produces.
In all too many eyes, public relations only includes dealing with media relations.
That is, public relations’ objective is to get coverage of the business—preferably positive
through the placement of articles and the like as endorsed by journalists.
It’s more than that. It is better seen as an umbrella term for any number of departments in a
business or corporation that seeks to get its messages out to various publics or audiences by
managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics or audiences.
Public is a part of a population that has been selected for study; an audience is a specifically
targeted group within that public that has been targeted for a company’s messages.
What is public relations?
Public relations serves to manage the credibility, reputation, trust, relationship, and confidence
of the general public in relation to the company.
Professor Donald K. Wright: “Public relations is the management function that identifies,
establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the
various publics on which its success or failure depends”

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How is public relations practiced if it is an umbrella concept?
Its practice can be defined by its function in the organization. Public relations takes on the
following functions, sometimes alone and at other times as a combined function.
The following list neither is complete nor is it listed by importance of function:
• Community relations
• Corporate communication
• Customer relations
• Employee relations
• Financial relations
• Governmental relations
• Media relations
• Public affairs
• Strategic communication
What are public relations’ objectives?
There are three major objectives any public relations campaign seeks to accomplish.
The first is to ensure that the messages get out to their intended audiences and that they are
understood (informational objective).
The second is to monitor the campaign so that benchmarks are set regarding the acceptance of
messages by target audiences in terms of cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitudinal or
belief acceptance or rejection or maintenance (“motivational objective”).
The third is predicting what the target audience will actually do based on the campaign
(“behavioral objective”).
Each objective must be met and then monitored before the next objective can be obtained.
In essence, public relations is a broad scale function that encompasses the full range of
communication from message development, to message delivery, receipt of message, impact
on target audiences, and effect on business outcomes.
A Brief History of Public Relations Research
The formal origins of public relations research can be traced to the 1950s.
During that period, a company called Group Attitudes Corporation was acquired by Hill &
The primary focus of Group Attitudes Corporation was to function as a standalone yet captive
arm of the parent agency. Its work included research for the Tobacco Institute (Legacy Tobacco
Document Library), as well as for other Hill & Knowlton clients.

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The primary focus of this research, taken from a review of several published reports, was to
assess reaction to communication messages and vehicles using processes that appear similar to
the research methods employed by the advertising industry during this same period.
This industry model was followed over the next 25 years with the establishment of research
arms at several other public relations agencies.
In addition to Hill & Knowlton, the major public relations agencies that have had research
departments include:
- Burson-Marsteller (Penn Schoen Berland)
- Ruder Finn (Research & Forecasts)
- Ketchum
- Weber Shandwick (KRC)
- Edelman (Edelman Insights)
- Ogilvy Public Relations
- Golin Harris and Cohn & Wolfe
For the most part, the primary function of these agency-based research departments was
similar to the work initially conducted by Group Attitudes Corporation. Most of these research
departments were created internally, with the notable exception of Penn Schoen Berland that
was acquired by WPP and later merged into Burson-Marsteller.
As early as the 1930s, methods were also being developed by advertisers and their agencies
that linked exposure and persuasion measures to actual store sales.
In essence, testing, measurement, analysis, and evaluation systems became an integral part of
the advertising industry.
These systems became so institutionalized by mid-decade that an academic journalThe
Journal of Advertising Researchas well as an industry associationThe Advertising Research
Foundationwere established in 1936.
Other journals followed and formal academic programs in marketing research were established
at major universities throughout the United States.
During the late 1970s, it became increasingly apparent that public relations differed
considerably from other communications disciplines, and advertising in particular, in its ability
to be measured and evaluated.
At the time, advertising testing was dominated by a variety of measurement and evaluation
systems of which the day after recall (DAR) method, popularized by Burke Marketing Research
in its work with Procter & Gamble, was one of the most common systems in use.
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