Heath, Encyclopedia of Public Relations

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Robert L. Heath (ed.), Encyclopedia of Public Relations, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005 Advisory Editors Elizabeth L. Toth (University of Maryland, College Park), John Madsen (Buena Vista University, Emeritus), Dean Kruckeberg (University of Northern Iowa), Kirk Hallahan (Colorado State University), W. Timothy Coombs (Eastern Illinois University), Shannon A. Bowen (University of Houston), Betteke van Ruler (University of Amsterdam), Kathleen S. Kelly (University of Florida) Preface (Robert L. He
   1Robert L. Heath (ed.), Encyclopedia of Public Relations , Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005 Advisory Editors Elizabeth L. Toth (University of Maryland, CollegePark), John Madsen (Buena Vista University, Emeri-tus), Dean Kruckeberg (University of NorthernIowa), Kirk Hallahan (Colorado State University),W. Timothy Coombs (Eastern Illinois University),Shannon A. Bowen (University of Houston), Bettekevan Ruler (University of Amsterdam), Kathleen S.Kelly (University of Florida) Preface (Robert L. Heath) xxiiiSome may wonder why public relations is adeserving topic for the extensive analysis itreceives in this encyclopedia. After all, manymight think, it is “just PR.” In the view of someor even many, public relations is the art of sham,spin, buzz, sandbagging, and “being nice.”Others fear it as deep-pockets lobbying thatgives privilege to powerful companies andspecial interests. Having said that, some criticsand many in the general public might be satis-fied. They may take a dismissive attitude. Thatattitude, however, can be counterproductive.Public relations does not slink into the cornerbecause it is dismissed. It is there to be seen andto exert influence. Thus, engaged and thoughtfulanalysis of the profession may be requiredbefore a final opinion is formed on the ethicsand societal role of the practice. Otherwise,critics and students of public relations may makea couple of serious mistakes. First, a dismissiveattitude toward public relations often is based ona narrow and considerably naïve sense of whatpublic relations is and what practitioners do.This sort of flippant dismissal can lead one tomiss the darker side of the practice, which in-deed adds evidence to support many of thoseclaims. However, such dismissal causes one toavoid considering the reality that when misprac-ticed, public relations can divert attention fromthe real issue, giving a false sense of how popu-lar and favorable a product might actually be.Endless public relations efforts exist, someheavily masked or even dismissed by the half-sibling of public relations, marketing. Thus,when we watch the Super Bowl or the AcademyAwards (or any of the endless list of similarlyhigh-profile events), we may fail to recognizethe hand of public relations being played. Pub-licity and promotion are the often silent tools of public relations; some will argue that the bestpublic relations is that which is not recognizedas such. The second mistake is failure to under-stand that public relations also plays a large rolein public policy issue debates. In fact, during the1970s, when the term issues management  wascoined, that aspect of the practice was started inlarge part by advertisers who believed that issueadvertising could combat the critics of largebusiness activities. This was not a new era inpublic policy debates. Many senior practitionershad a long reputation of working in the publicpolicy arena. Many believe that the enormous,society-defining debates in the last decades of the 19th century spawned much of the practiceas we know it today. But practitioners quicklyrealized that issue advertising had limited likeli-hood of appeal and impact as a means of nar-rowing the chasm between corporate perform-ance and public expectations. In such debates,members of various segments of the generalpublic and opinion leaders may be more inter-ested in the arguments made in a well-craftededitorial or book by an expert – or a featurearticle – than an advertisement. Thus, the workof the public relations practitioner came to thefore – once again. Society could exist withoutpublic relations, but it won’t. This means thatpublic relations, for better or for worse, is hereto stay. What we think of as public relations maynot be in dispute, but what practitioners do andthe good or bad they accomplish will be thesubject of debate. The challenge facing theprofession of public relations, and themen andwomen who serve as practitioners, is to earn thetrust and respect of critics and the general pub-lic. Senior practitioners and academics do nottake this challenge lightly. Public relationsgained professional and academic status duringthe 20th century in the United States and fromthere it spread to much of the rest of the world.That is the good news. In that regard, publicrelations in the minds of many people and aca-demics came to be viewed as a positive way fororganizations to get their message before mar-kets, audiences, and strategic publics, the criticsand supporters of such organizations. In a posi-tive sense, then, public relations helped organi-zations build mutually beneficial relationshipswith customers, critics, and other stakeholders.This effort will continue. However, because of its contemporary srcins, it has often been asso-ciated with propaganda – a label that senior   2practitioners tend to avoid and reject. The badnews is that public relations, in the minds of some or many, is the dark art of manipulationand confusion. For some, it is a shifty business.It occurs in the White House as well as boardrooms of businesses, nonprofits, and govern-mental agencies. It has been characterized as “astealth bomber” that can deliver persuasivemessages in ways that get through people’sdefenses. Seen in this way, public relations canbe viewed as a tool that large organizations haveand will continue to use to engineer consent.That means that people should not trust publicrelations or its practitioners if they are sneaky,manipulative, deceptive, and dishonest – if theydo not tell the truth, if they engage in spin, or if they are expert sandbaggers and flacks. The Encyclopedia of Public Relations is a vehiclethat may help the field to reach a wide array of readers who can serve as opinion leaders forimproving the image and ethics of the practice.This work intends to provide an honest butpositively biased treatment of public relations. Itstrives to give a sound, insightful, and apprecia-tive view ofwhat public relations is and does aswell as the ethical challenges it must meet to beseen as a positive force in society. From itslaunch, this project has been a substantial, evendaunting, undertaking. Like all edited projects,this one has been a difficult and exciting jour-ney. The most fascinating part has been wres-tling with the list of practitioners who should befeatured with their own biographical entries.Talk to 20 senior practitioners and academics,and you will get a list of names they believedeserve recognition in a work such as this. Somepeople will be on all lists. Some lists will besubstantially different. Some people will arguethat certain people should not be featured, al-though others will insist that such a work wouldbe inadequate without them. Consequently, wecreated a list of names of extraordinary practi-tioners who have helped define the profession bywhat they have said and done. The next problemwas getting authors. Many of the people whowere qualified to write certain biographicalentries deserved entries themselves. So we didsome trading. Some potential authors of variousentries were not in a mental or physical state tocontribute. We even had some people passbeyond this physical existence during the proc-ess. Often the “only person” who could write anentry was unable to do so, but never unwilling.For the subjects of some entries, documents andothers source materials simply were not avail-able or were in storage somewhere unknown tothe authors. In some crucial instances, the personfeatured in the entry was mentally or physicallyunable to provide additional information. Out of these difficulties, however, we did find worthyentries and came to see this document as themost authoritative reference source on many of the persons who crafted the profession in the19th and 20th centuries. In finding subjects andauthors, we were even able to reach beyond theboundaries of the United States and feature keyplayers in other countries, such as Great Britainand Germany. Public relations neither started inthe United States nor does it reside exclusivelythere. So we were fortunate to give voice to thepresence of the practice and key practitioners inother countries. Still, there are omissions. Somewill never be recovered. Facts get lost in time.We were fortunate, if for no other reason thanthis, to undertake this project when we did. Thelives and careers of these pioneers are fleeting.And most of the people who made the profes-sion what it is today lived and worked in the20th century. PUBLIC RELATIONS: WHAT’S IN A TERM? Other than the people who made their livingsfrom public relations, what is this book about?One of the longest entries is devoted to a terriblyinadequate definition of the profession. Peoplein public relations can’t universally agree onwhat the practice constitutes or what the termmeans. For this reason, the definition of publicrelations is offered as a dialogue on publicrelations to help students, practitioners, academ-ics, and people in general appreciate the scopeand purpose of the term. If the book helps read-ers to think about the meaning of the term andconsider its many facets, then those of us whocontributed to the definition will feel satisfied.We simply don’t like the term to be treated as astereotype. And for the most part, practitionersand academics prefer the term  public relations to PR because the latter is invariably associatedwith the dark side of the profession. As long agoas the 1970s, attempts were made to sort outdefinitions. Senior practitioners such as EdwardL. Bernays and John W. Hill had by then pub-lished books in which they offered their defini-tions. By the early 1970s, the term had been   3defined by the Public Relations Society of America. Several textbook authors had triedtheir hand at defining the term. Endless efforts atdefinition have occurred in journal articles andcritical comments by journalists. As is true of many crucial words for professions in society,this one passes through history, professionalpractice, academic classes, media commentary,and everyday conversations. The passing flowsas easily and unstoppably as water throughcupped hands. It just won’t stay put. But just asmedicine once was generally referred to asquackery, public relations practitioners in somecircles are known as flacks and journalists arecalled hacks – a term that was used in that con-text long before it was made popular in referenceto cyber-intruders. Some practitioners and aca-demics have tracked the various definitions of this wily beast as hunters pursue their prey.Writing in 1977, Dr. Rex Harlow observed,using the start of the 20th century as his bench-mark, A review of the history of the definition of public relations shows that the definition haschanged considerably over the past 70 years.This historical review reveals how inextricablythe development of the definition has been and isbound to the movement of thought and action of the society in which the public relations practi-tioner does his [or her] work. It shows the pre-sent form, content and status of the public rela-tions definition, but even more the effect of environmental factors and change upon itsdevelopment during the past quarter of a cen-tury. (p. 49) Without a doubt, then, a discussionof public relations is necessarily a discussion of the society or societies in which it is practiced.We can’t discuss this topic without consideringthe human drama of change, markets, publicpolicies, and the public policy “fistfights” thatgo along with all of that. We added the word her  to Harlow’s comment because today the publicrelations professional is more likely to be awoman than a man. ELEMENTS OF THE PRACTICE AND STUDY:WHAT MAKES UP THE PRACTICE? One of the goals of this book is to make thepractice of public relations more adequatelyunderstood by an array of readers, including thegeneral public. For better or worse, public rela-tions plays a vital role in commerce, nonprofitactivities, and the processes of government.Movies such as Wag the Dog give people ashocking view of how people might be able tomanipulate the media by manufacturing newsthat shapes policy – thereby manipulating whatpeople know, think about, and end up doing.That’s a lot of power. It must be guided by astrong sense of professionalism and sound xxvethical principles. In the conduct of their busi-ness, practitioners have a lot of “tools” in theirkits. Each day, they get more. What’s in the toolkit?  Mission/Vision Organizations craft mission and vision state-ments to help them know where they are goingand to chart their plans to achieve those out-comes. Public relations is a useful tool to helpframe missions as well as to accomplish thoseends. Also, persons who practice public relationsoperate out of stated and unstated mission andvision statements. Organizations such as thePublic Relations Society of America and theInternational Association of Business Commu-nicators voice their own mission and visionstatements to serve as broad guides for thepractice of professional communicators. Strategies Perhaps the broadest tools in the kit are strate-gies. It is here that public relations’ reputationfor manipulation is often deserved. One of thestrategies available to practitioners is manipula-tion. Practitioners have made the small seemlarge, and the large seem small. They createbuzz to compete with disinterest. At their worst,they can be masters and mistresses of attractingattention and framing statements – manufactur-ing reputations and crafting images that may befar from reality. They have created pseudo-events. Many of the entries in this book look atthe strategies of public relations. In a broadsense, some of the strategies include publicizing,promoting, engaging in issue debates, informing,persuading, and working to create mutuallybeneficial relationships. They can entail negotia-tion, collaboration, and cooperation. On thedown side, just as practitioners know how toopen the flow of information, they also may stopthat flow through spin, sandbagging, and diver-sion. Practitioners may cover up as well asuncover. Functions The functions of public relations often are partof the list of services announced by agencies.They may be job descriptions and divisions in   4large corporate public relations departments.Functions are used to accomplish or implementstrategies. Thus, for instance, if publicly tradedcompanies are required by the Securities andExchange Commission to communicate withshareholders, they have an investor relationsfunction. Nonprofits engage in fundraising ordevelopment, a function. All organizationsengage in media relations, another function.They may have a customer relations or em-ployee relations function. They may engage inissues management. Universities and collegeshave sports information functions, marketingfunctions, development functions, student rela-tions functions, and so on. Counseling is a vitalfunction. Counseling is the stock and trade of thesenior practitioner. Such persons work to posi-tion organizations to help them earn respect andsupport and to avoid collisions with opinionsand competing interests. Acting wisely andethically, the counselor can help the organizationto operate in ways that do not offend the senti-ments and expectations of key publics. Engagedin as manipulation, counseling can help anorganization to appear to be something quitedifferent from what it is and thereby enable it toearn falsely deserved rewards. In the worstsense, perhaps, such counseling can keep apolitician from being found wanting or help abusiness to seem to be worth much more thanshareholders would otherwise suspect. A func-tion is a broad category of tools to achievespecific strategies for a particular purpose inworking with some definable audience, market,or public. Perhaps the ultimate function of publicrelations is the creation of meaning. Here also,practitioners and academics confront thornyethical issues. What meaning needs to be createdto help build and maintain mutually beneficialrelationships? How can practitioners help shapethe meaning that strengthens community throughdiverse voices and alternative opinions? Aca-demics tend to look at process more than mean-ing. Practitioners never forget the importance of meaning. The meaning may center on the favor-able attributes of a product or service. Meaningmay seek to foster a favorable image of anorganization. Employee relationships depend onmeaning. So do xxvi   donor relationships. Thelist is long. The challenge is great. Serious,ethical, and responsible practitioners know theycannot manipulate meaning. Meaning must bebased on sound judgment, high ethical princi-ples, and a mutuality of interests. We may addethical decision making to the list of functions.That notion may baffle critics. Practitioners,however, are in an excellent position to hold andapply sound, ethical principles to guide theorganizations they serve. Tools and Tactics How a function works to implement strategiesdepends on and defines the tools or tactics thatare specialized to that function. Thus, for inves-tor relations, one of the tools is the annual finan-cial report. Another tool, used especially bycompanies that manufacture chemicals, is thehealth, safety, and environment report. Themedia release – what used to be called the pressrelease – is a standard tool practitioners use tofeature newsworthy facts and opinions for theuse of reporters and editorialists. Events, or whatsome call pseudo-events, are vital tools. Manynewspapers carry regular features giving thedetails of some fundraiser. A charity for childrenmight hold a gala to raise funds and honor thosewho work hard to raise those funds. The practi-tioner makes sure that a photojournalist gets theobligatory shot of three or four – never more –of the persons who help publicize the event.From the most ancient times, manufacturedevents have been a vital part of society – busi-ness and government administration. That trajec-tory is unlikely to change soon – if ever. Pressconferences are a counterpart of media releases,as are backgrounders. Practitioners create mediakits and groom Web sites. They create 1-800hotlines and FAQs for Web site home pages.Practitioners engage in crisis prevention, plan-ning, and response. During a crisis, we like tohave practitioners and others help us understandwhat happened, why it happened, and what weshould do. During a hurricane or a chemicalrelease, we like to have emergency plans toexecute to know how to be safe. Practitionershelp us in these ways. We may appreciate learn-ing about cures and treatments, as well as thesymptoms of ailments. Medical researchersdiscover medical facts and offer treatments,which professional communicators may publi-cize and promote. ONWARD INTO THE FOG – BUTPERHAPS WITH A LANTERN TO LEAD Public relations as demonstrated in this encyclo-pedia is timeless. And it is here to stay. Some
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