THE Father of Philippine PR and my mentor Jose A. Carpio defined Public Relations as “doing good and telling it well.” It still rings true even now, almost 50 years since I started in the business. You see, much of the development of Philippine PR was anchored on the evolution of technology, of the media used to communicate the messages, but the principle is and will always be the same. If you are doing something good and you are able to communicate it well to those you want to reach, you’ve made a mark and secured an audience.
PR as communication for audiovisual media
BACK in the 1970s, PR was largely about writing stories and giving them to the press to be printed in the papers or broadcasted on TV or the radio. It used to be just news stories that companies saw fit to share with their audience: product launches, corporate movements, upcoming events, etc. The main goal was simply to inform. Companies would push their messages for the public to consume. You can say that PR as a corporate tool focused mainly on media relations and publicity.
But Mr. Carpio saw beyond that. He founded the Public Relations Society of the Philippines and used it as a platform to professionalize the field. So from advertising, I got into the business of PR. We networked and slowly built connections with the who’s who in business and government because PRSP under Mr. Carpio used PR to build, not just awareness, but understanding and appreciation of businesses and institutions, as well as individuals.
PR eventually developed into what is called corporate communication. More than just publicity, the practice grew to include corporate social responsibility (CSR), crisis management, stakeholder relations, and other projects that are more exclusive and expansive in terms of reach and engagement. It became more about building mutually beneficial relationships with customers.
Dawn of the Internet
PR evolved further when the Internet came. The Internet revolutionized communication by making it more dynamic, synergetic and liberal.
But the most important change that the Internet brought is it enabled audiences, who were once mere recipients, to talk back to the companies and corporations. This is actually an ideal model of communication for us. Knowing what customers think gives plenty of insight on how to serve them better. It helps us create more involved and developed programs that have better reach and higher level of engagement. Stories now include real people’s experiences with the product or brand, with lots of action reported in real time, or thought leadership initiatives, among others. They’re also almost always accompanied by preproduced shareable content like videos, infographics and listicles.
Actually, some of the current PR efforts grow by themselves. They reach places we never knew existed and give birth to new ideas we could use to further our messages. Moreover, these things become part and parcel of weaving the fabric of a brand’s story.
Along with this, the goals of PR changed, as well. From merely to inform, PR is now used to educate, influence and engage the target audience so much so that the relationship with them leads to brand love and loyalty.
There’s a caveat to it, however. The opening of the audience channel via the Internet, or social media in particular, is a double-edged sword. As much as it’s easy to share positive information, people can also spread lies and fake news about anyone or anything just as quickly. User-generated content can spread like wildfire and there’s often little that can be done to stop it.
To be continued
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Luis J. Morales is the chairman of CID Communication Inc.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]