Some might consider public relations an unnecessary business expense. Proper behavior and ethical business practices, it would seem, should be enough to keep the press positive whether you’re a public figure or a large corporation.
The truth is, however, that behind positive public opinion is often a successful public relations effort. In today’s world where the ubiquity of social media has transformed the meaning of transparency for corporations and individuals alike, anyone living or working in the public eye has the need for a continuous monitoring and control of public opinion.
This reality is reflected in the growth and expansion of the public relations industry. To wit, nearly 50 percent of public relations firms participating in a 2011 study conducted by The Council of Public Relations Firms reported double-digit gains in year-over-year profits. Overall, 70 percent of firms saw revenue growth during that time.
The firms are most often hired for three reasons:
Estella Warren was a synchronized swimmer for the Canadian national team before becoming a model and actress with roles in blockbuster hits like “Planet of the Apes” and a spread in Sports Illustrated magazine. In 2011, however, her career screeched to a halt when she was arrested on a DUI charge after a hit-and-run accident and proceeded to assault an officer as well as attempt to escape while awaiting her booking.
Such events are the epitome of celebrity scandal and they mark the ideal situation in which the efforts of a public relations firm is needed. Like Robert Downey Jr., a perfect example of a successful public relations campaign, Warren entered rehab. That, however, is just the first step of a public relations campaign to rehabilitate an image. Also included is an effort to keep the client out of the spotlight while the scandal runs its course, working with the management team to secure work opportunities and guiding future press events to ensure the public sees a rehabilitated version of the star whom they can once again support.
Promotions and Marketing
Another top use of public relations is to serve as a supplement to a company’s marketing efforts. Whether it be via press releases highlighting a new product or a leak to magazines regarding something positive a client may be doing, public relations plays a major role in creating a positive public image that generates support and sales. This latter method is considered word-of-mouth marketing and it’s one of the fastest growing sectors of the public relations industry, according to Veronhis Suhler Stevenson, a private equity firm that specializes in information, media and marketing services.
Building a Client’s Image
For nearly a decade, Tiger Woods enjoyed the position of golf’s most-loved athlete and served as a positive role model for millions of children and aspiring golfers alike. After his long history of extramarital affairs was exposed, however, Woods suffered a long fall from grace in both the public’s eyes and that of his colleagues and sponsors.
Woods’ ability to maintain his polished public image despite his ongoing infidelity was the mark of public relations.