Difficult to reach: means that PR targets important stakeholders and difficult to reach audiences such as opinion leaders and investors. Many of them are not interested in advertising or direct mailing, and even avoid it. On the other hand, they are often interested in news and may be reached indirectly by the media exposure generated through PR activity. PR professionals can advise companies on important trends and on the consequences of corporate activities on marketing effectiveness. PR can present the company as a good citizen and as such contributes to the corporate image and reputation. PR offers the opportunity of more message flexibility.
PR plays an important role in guiding the company through crisis without too much damage to its reputation. Often, advertising is strictly regulated by governments. PR offers the opportunity of more message flexibility. PR is often relatively cost-effective because the media coverage generated is free, and this enables the company to reach a variety of audiences and a large number of people at a fraction of the cost that would have been required in an advertising campaign. PR is considered to be more objective and therefore more believable in the perception of the target groups, news is also generally more exciting, or is presented as such.
– The major weakness of PR is the lack of control over the content of the press coverage of news release. Evidently, the media have other priorities and other sources, and the published story may be quite different from the information disseminated by the PR department. – Journalists act as gatekeeper: if a story is perceived as having not enough “news value” it may be not published, especially in period in which there is other important news to cover. – The effectiveness of PR is hard to measure. Often, exposure measures are used, but they hardly say anything about the long-term effect of PR efforts on company goodwill or sales.
Case Study: Three Japanese Toshiba engineers visiting a subsidiary in the USA were killed and two were seriously injured when a truck accidentally drove into the restaurant where they were having dinner. Toshiba US responded quickly, formed a crisis management team and identified a crisis response leader. Information was released to employees and to the media as quickly as possible, the spokesman immediately expressed company concern for the victims and their families and for plant employees. He did not speculate about the causes of the accident. The company president was appropriately visible and involved. It was decided to invite every one in the Japanese families who wanted to come to the USA. According to Japanese traditions, on their arrival they received flowers. A day-long trip was organized to show the group how their relatives lived and where they died. They were allowed to collect the personal possessions of the victims in their rooms which had been intentionally left untouched. A meeting was held with the lawyers investigating the cause of the accident. Internal communication was quick and overt by means of bulletin bard messages, following the principle “the more you try to hide, the worse things get”. The only false note in this well-organised and culturally fine-tuned crisis communications effort was the fact that the truck driver did not assume any responsibility for the accident, something that is, according to Japanese culture, incomprehensible.