“Sometime late last year the GM of one of the front-line Public Relations agencies operating today asked me what my understanding was of Public Relations. I proceeded to describe my take on Corporate Public Relations or at least what it possibly aims to achieve, admitting that I was of course not a PR professional but of a media background.
I said PR as I see it, is what looks into the ‘human element’ running corporations, building on that knowledge to enhance productivity from that angle on behalf of the client who solicits their services. Bureaucracies generally appear rather faceless, nonhuman and represent institutionalism. This, in a way is what the novelist Franz Kafka explores in The Castle. Yet, I said all institutions are run by humans, and therefore to build better relations between corporations and their stakeholders, the ‘human element’ needs to be better understood; and communications that deliver an effective result need to be built and maintained for this purpose.
The response was that my take on PR sounded interesting and my outlook had some newness. However it was not exactly the crux of defining the PR industry which involves many lines of services. But nevertheless that is what I conceived as Corporate PR. My layman understating on the subject may not have been ‘spot on’; but I don’t think it was altogether meaningless either.
Corporate PR as I learnt in that conversation is centrally to do with matters relating to the ‘reputation and image’ of clients. It’s about ‘building and guarding’ reputations I was told. The crux of it of course is made on the basis of ‘brand imaging’ which is central in the subject of marketing, of which I have very limited exposure.
Reputations can be built of organisations, corporations, and institutions. But these intangible ‘reputations and images’ are nevertheless the result of people and their efforts to create goods, services which become ‘reputable’. Hence why Corporate PR schemes include ‘profiling’ the personalities behind the success of the company through print and electronic media. I feel this aspect of a PR plan touches on the ‘human element’ of corporations and circumspectly aids profiteering, as a more ‘trustable image’ of the otherwise opaque bureaucracy is communicated to the public or in more marketing oriented terminology –the ‘consumers’ or ‘targeted market’.[…]Knowing the faces of the helmsmen of big business makes them appear more human and ‘personified’ having ‘a face to go by’. People are curious about other people; that is how gossip sells and becomes a saleable commodity. Profiling people through PR campaigns is partly to do with this aspect of societal psychology. A substantiation of sorts in certain respects of this perception is found in Confessions of an Advertising Man, by David Ogilvy, one of the fathers of modern advertising. In Chapter VII titled ‘How to Illustrate Advertisements and Poster’ Ogilvy says – “Showing the clients’ faces” is also a better stratagem than it may sound, because the public is more interested in personalities than in corporations.”
Written by Dilshan Boange for The Nation