The basic purpose of public relations writer is to persuade. The objective is to create favourable public opinion about the organization – its policies and actions, goods and services. The objective is to influence people. To be an effective public relations writer, you must understand public opinion, why people have opinions, and how to effect those opinions.
Public opinion is not just mass opinion. It is the sum of individuals’ opinions on subject that affects them. The general public may unaware of the controversy or aware but indifferent. The reason for varying opinions is the
Variance in attitude.
An opinion is an expression of attitude. It may be expressed by writing, by speaking, by acting, or not acting. People who fail to express their opinion may do so because their attitudes are weak or because they don’t believe that expressing themselves will do any good. An attitude is a predisposition to think, speak, act in a given way about a specific subject. No-one is born with an attitude – all attitudes are learned. Some attitudes are deeply rooted; when tied into other attitudes, beliefs and values, they may be very hard to change. In public relations writing, it is necessary to think about the attitudes of the particular public you are trying to influence. You must also know how public opinion is built.
Public opinion doesn’t really exist until something affects a number of people who have similar or identical attitudes. The people must be aware of the issue or they will not have any opinion about it. Usually the awareness results from some event. When something happens or is likely to happen, the people become concerned – if they know about it. People have to express their opinion to others with similar attitudes. Someone must call for action, and the action must be possible. People are much more certain about what they want than they are about how to get it. Public opinion isn’t evident unless it can expect to get results.
To communicate is to make known – to project ideas into minds of others. This process depends on four elements: a sender, a message, a medium and a receiver. If all these elements are operating, there will be communication. In describing the process of communication, it is normal to list the elements as sender, message, medium and receiver. But it may be better to think of the process in reverse order: whom to reach, how to reach, what to say and on
Receiver is the target audience, the people you must reach. You must learn about the characteristics and attitudes of your projected receivers if you are to communicate effectively and persuasively. Such factors as educational level, economic status, occupation, place of residence, religious affiliation, national origin, social class and political affiliation affect how a target audience receives and perceives your message.
As business becomes more global, there is also a growing need to understand the attitudes, customs and cultures of other nations. Faulty translation of publicity materials can cause a number of gaffes if one doesn’t understand the language and culture of a nation.
Your responsibility is to research your audience. Reference books, surveys and pools, online databases and personally talking to members of the target audience are good approaches. Armed with such knowledge, you can give information in such a way that the recipients will accept the message, absorb it and eventually act on it.
The media are the physical channels that carry the message to the receiver. They may include newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, letters, speeches, pictures, news letters, leaflets, brochures and the telephone. Every medium has adventures and disadvantages. Your job is to determine which media or combination of media will be more effective in reaching the target audience. Your budget may prohibit some because of cost. Others may be desirable but impossible. Your message must reach the audience with enough power and frequency to make an impact. It often takes considerable repetition to plant an idea and the greater impact of any single communication, the more likely it is to absorbed and remembered.
The sender is the organization from which the message comes. Every organization has different publics, divergent interests, dissimilar objects and problems, distinctive beliefs and its own peculiarities. As a writer you must know and understand the organization so that the messages you prepare will be not only effective but also truly representative of the organization. In addition, you must be very sure what you send out is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Panning the message starts with a determination of just what ideas you want your receivers to have: what you want them to think, to believe, to do. Then you must acquire a solid knowledge of what your audience knows and believes. If you want affect attitudes and opinions, you must find out about those that already exist. This calls for research. Your message must be applicable, believable, realistic and convincing. It must be expressed clearly and understandably in familiar words and phrases. Above all, you must convince the receivers that the idea you are presenting can be beneficial to them.
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