Companies employ public relations specialists to handle their media affairs. In some companies, they carry out all the work internally; in others they use the services of a public relations firm. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that companies employed 275,200 public relations professionals in 2008. They forecast job growth of 24 percent for public relations specialists between 2008 and 2018, reflecting the discipline’s growing importance to corporate strategy.
The traditional role of press relations remains important. The media team is responsible for creating and distributing press releases and background information on product and company developments. The team should also have the resources and contacts to handle press inquiries quickly and efficiently. The availability of rolling 24-hour news channels means that most journalists’ enquiries require an urgent response.
A key role for the media team is to communicate and protect the organization’s reputation. According to The Global RepTrak™ Pulse study from the Reputation Institute, “people are more likely to buy the products of companies they trust, work for the organizations they respect and recommend companies they admire.” Reputation management has become more complex with the growth of online communities and feedback from social networks. Media teams need to identify and manage any threats to corporate reputation from these online sources.
The growing influence of social media is having an impact on media functions in the organization. The MarketingProfs website reports that social media is changing the way businesses communicate corporate and marketing messages. It is also influencing the way organizations monitor and respond to customer feedback. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that social media growth will increase job numbers in the sector, with a requirement for specialist skills.
If an organization suffers a major problem, such as a serious financial loss, product recall or fire damage, the media team should have an up-to-date crisis management plan ready for implementation. The plan should cover different scenarios and should include procedures and contacts for managing relations with the media. The team should also arrange media training for any executives nominated as contacts in the event of a crisis. The aim of crisis management is not just to minimize organizational risk; it should also try to create a positive opportunity, according to Edward Devlin in The Crisis Management Plan.
Although an internal media team can handle many of the important public relations tasks, an organization may also need to work with external firms – a public relations consultancy, for example, or a financial relations firm. The internal team should be involved in the selection of the specialist firm and work with it on a day-to-day basis.