Public relations is concerned with building relationships and protecting reputation. It involves using strategic communications to inform and benefit stakeholders, and is an important consideration in engagement work.
Below is a brief outline of how public relations is important in engagement.
Public relations should have a role in decision-making on organisational policy, with influence at board and senior management level. It should also influence plans and operations, offering knowledge and insight on public opinion, and input into how to influence or change public policy. It is also PR’s responsibility to help stakeholders understand an organisation.
When developing an engagement strategy, public relations should form a central part of planning.
A public relations team’s activities may vary from organisation to organisation. Typically, they may include the activities below.
- Stakeholder analysis and mapping – An assessment of the groups and organisations with interest in or influence upon a piece of work – also vital for assessing who to engage with.
- Public affairs – Involves gathering knowledge of political figures – local and national – relevant to your sphere of work. This will help your organisations prepare for meetings with MPs, develop its stance on a political issue and understand the political climate in which it operates. A PR team may also prepare parliamentary briefings.
- Media relations – Primarily concerned with working with journalists and photographers of media of all types and developing contacts. Also includes monitoring media for coverage of your organisation, as well as horizon scanning for other pieces of relevant news that may affect your organisation. This information will usually be pulled into a report.
- News content development – Writing press releases and articles in the editorial style of your organisation, normally aligned to the style adopted by the press. Also includes positioning statements summing up a corporate stance on a particular issue, to offer to media.
- Spokesperson briefings – A spokesperson is a person designated to speak on behalf of your organisation, either to the media or at other high profile opportunities, such as Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meetings. PR professionals will prepare an expert with a briefing document offering key lines’ to take, such as answers to predicted questions and statistics.
- Media training – Involves training ‘spokespeople’ - those designated to speak for the organisation in the media – using different media scenarios to prepare them for ‘real life’ situations.
- Copywriting – A PR team may also have responsibility for other publications, including writing magazine features, company annual reports, website copy and marketing collateral.