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Public Relations' Impact on Public Opinion & Attitudes

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Companies want the public to like them and support them. They also want customers. To have both, they need to rely on the services of public relations. In this lesson we will learn how public relations can impact the opinions of the public.

A First Look at Public Relations

Have you ever been watching TV and saw a company representative introducing new board members who would be happy to help you with any of your needs? Have you ever listened to the radio and heard about a new store opening and how the store will bring jobs to the community? Or, have you ever picked up a magazine and read an inspirational story about a company that does a lot of charity or community service work and felt compelled to shop there? All of these are ways that public relations (PR) works to reach a target audience.

In this lesson you'll learn about public relations, which is creating a likeable company image for the public, and how it impacts public opinion. Public relations is one way that companies seek to shape public opinion; others include advertising, marketing, and sales. The distinction among these functions may vary by company, but typically the key difference between advertising and public relations is that companies pay for advertising to sell products, while public relations typically involves providing information to the media or public through other channels, such as media releases, meetings, or participation in or sponsorship of public activities.

Objectives for Public Relations

Before PR professionals can influence the opinions and beliefs of the public, they need to know what the PR goals are and what impact they are trying to achieve. For example, is the goal of the public relations campaign to sell a new and exciting project, or is the goal to repair the image of a company that was recently involved in a scandal? Once the objective is identified, public relations will have a clear focus for planning.

Procedures to Impact Attitude and Opinions

Once the objective has been identified, the next step is creating an effective plan to influence the attitude and opinions of the public. In this section we will look at some major ways public relations can impact opinions and attitudes.

Products

Public relations is often used to introduce a new product or revamp attitudes about an existing one. The goal is to get consumers to purchase the product. To accomplish the goal, public relations needs to impact the way the consumer feels about the product. This is done by showing how the product is different from other products, and creating awareness that the product is out there. For example, a company that sells lamps may set up a booth at a home improvement show. The display can highlight the product and get the attention of a plausible target audience: those looking to redecorate, remodel, or enhance their homes. Another example might be a company selling a new makeup line called Beauty giving away free makeovers to new customers using products from the new makeup line. This can make prospective customers feel good about the way they look and thus may encourage them to purchase the products.

Brand

Sometimes a company is not reaching the public because their brand is not strong enough. Perhaps, customers have never heard of the company or do not know where to buy their products. It is the goal of public relations to create a brand that influences customers to shop with the company. To do so, a company might try to get as much exposure as possible. For example, a new educational company might create a program to enable employees to volunteer as afterschool tutors. This lets the community know they care about the education of children and thus creates a brand that consumers trust and will look to for future products and services.

Employees

We have all heard of companies that are terrible to work for. Maybe they make their employees work long hours or pay them poor wages. When we as consumers hear how badly employees are being treated, we may be influenced to shop somewhere else so we do not support that behavior.

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