The Role of Public Relations in an Organization

Public Relations is a supporting function of the organization that purposely channels the ongoing effort of building, maintaining and enhancing acceptance and support of an organization by relevant internal and external stakeholders. The objective is to establish, maintain and enhance a positive image of the organization. It seeks continuous feedback from stakeholders and responds to such feedback.

Public Relations is both a proactive and a reactive function. It is proactive when function attempts to create and enhance organization’s reputation with the external stakeholders. It is reactive when function attempts to rectify any damage done to the image of the organization by an event or issue.

There were four major drivers which resulted in the increasing importance of public relations as a profession and as a function within organizations. One of the drivers was democratization throughout the world and the importance of communication in a democratic society. An evidence for democratization was the fall of the Berlin Wall and demolition of the USSR.

Another driver that led to the increasing importance of public relations as a profession and function within an organization is developments in communication technology which led to increasing transparency in the business world and increasing awareness of consumers and other stakeholders as well as level of their knowledge and power.

Other drivers were increasingly larger organizations and growing conflicts and changes among various groups within society such as women’s rights movements and animal rights movements.

The role that the public relations function plays in organizations is not consistent. In some organizations public relations practitioners play a minor role and have no input into management decision making. In other organizations public relations practitioners play a more important role, have an input into management decision making and the head of the public relations function reports directly to the CEO of the organization. Public relations also often are sub functions of another function of the organization, such as marketing.

It is suggested in the literature on public relations that for public relations to play an important role in the organization, the organizational structure has to be established in a way where there is a strong fit between public relations and the organizational structure. In other words, the organizational structure needs to allocate an important role for public relations.



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