Public Relations

By Irfan Nugroho
1. Definition
There are so many definitions about Public Relations out there. In this chapter, the writer will highlight two big categories about the definitions of Public Relations. The first category is about “what Public Relations is,” while the second category is “what Public Relations does.”
Talking about “what Public Relations is,” there is a good definition of Public Relations that may represent what Public Relations is. It is the definition stated by the 1978 World Assembly of Public Relations Associations of Mexico. They agreed that:
Public Relations is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization leaders and implementing planned programs of action which will serve both the organization’s and the public interests.
(Wilcox et al. in Theaker, 2003:4)
From the definition above, we may conclude that ‘Public Relations is a measurable, science-based application of communication tools and the affection of many practitioners for the looser, more creative, aspects of the work.’ (Theaker, 2003:4). Therefore, based on the definition above, we can clearly see “what Public Relations is.”
In 1976, Rex Harlow cleverly summarized 472 definitions of Public Relations into 88 words like below:
Public Relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasize the responsibility of management to serve the public interests; help management to keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and ethical communication technique as its principal tools.
(Harlow, quoted in Theaker 2003: 4)
Harlow has made a savvy definition of Public Relations like above. He puts many key concepts of Public Relations from hundreds definitions of Public Relations in the world into the definitions like above. The definition above clearly describes ‘what Public Relations does’ rather than ‘what Public Relations is’. However, the further explanation about what Public Relations does will be explained in the second section of this sub-chapter II Duties.
From those two definitions – either those representing what Public Relations does or what Public Relations is – have several similarities that are the words “organization” and “public.”
Talking about Public Relations often grapples with organization and public. There must be an interaction between organization and its entire public or selected group. Hence, such interaction will be shaped out if the communication between both sides runs well.
Harlow states that there must be mutual communication between an organization and its publics. Hopefully it will lead an organization to ‘achieve its mission and vision through mutually beneficial relationship’ (Cutlip in Heath, 2005: 680). And, mutual communication here ‘should be beneficial to the organization and to the general public’ (Wilcox in Theaker, 2005;5).
Finally, establishing relations with the public through mutual and ‘communal communication’ (Grunig; 2007) is a must for Public Relations. Not only establishing, Public Relations must also be capable of ‘maintaining such communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation with the public’ (Harlow in Tehaker; 2003).
2. Duties
The main duty of a Public Relations Officer is establishing communication and relations with the public (Suryadi; 2007). In more detail, Indrojiono et al. (2007;33) cleverly divided Public Relations’ duties into five points, even though those five points are inseparable. Those five duties of Public Relations are listed below:
aa. Keep informing the publics about the organization orally as well as through written or visual media
b. Keep monitoring, recording, and evaluating public opinion.
c. Creating good corporate image
d. Social Responsibility
e. Building reciprocal communication with the public.
Bertrand R. Canfield on his book entitled Public Relations, Principles and Problems provides three duties of Public Relations such as below:
a. Serving the public interests
b. Maintaining good communication
c. Stressing good morals and manners.
From the lists above, we find that all Public Relations’ duties – directly or indirectly – always have contact to the public. We may say that Public Relations is a bridge of organization and its public. Grunig and Hunt suggested that Public Relations to act and imply boundary role concept (Grunig and Hunt in Soemirat;2003). It means that Public Relations works on the border of organization and the public by putting one leg in the organization and the other one in the public.
3. Establishing Relations in Public Relations
“Relations” in Public Relations means (Indrojiono et al. 2007) such as below:
a. Giving attention to personal
b. Encouraging them to be autonomous by improving our participation
c. Learning from the past to broaden up our knowledge
d. Be beneficial for social intercourse
e. Communication to solve individual or collective problems
f. Experience to enrich our personality
g. Eradicating social clash
Dealing with the duties and responsibilities of Public Relations, as a bridge of organization and its public, there will be two main discussions about establishing relations in Public Relations. It is based on the concept of Public Relations function, which is, “putting one leg in organization and the other one in the public.
a. Internal Relations
In carrying out Public Relations functions, a Public Relations Officer must be able to ‘maintain good communication with employee (employee relations) and stakeholder (stakeholder relations)’ (Effendy; 1993). Indrojiono et al. 2007, added employees’ family relations into his definition about internal relations.
An organization with complex structure, there must be harmonious interaction within to reach the organization’s objectives. Therefore, it demands three communication flows consisting of ‘upward communication, downward communication, and horizontal communication’ (Indrojiono et al. 2007).
b. External Relations
Establishing external relations is as important as establishing harmonious internal relations. ‘Both have great influences toward an organization in achieving its objectives’ (Effendy; 1993).
Indrojiono et al. provides eight types of external relations. Those eight types are government relations, press relations, creditor relations, consumer relations, supplier relations, competitor relations, banking relations, and society relations.
Consequently, there are two ways of establishing external relations, organization-public communication and public-organization communication. Organization-public communication is commonly in the form of informative speech/press releases. (Indrojiono et al 2007).

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