Publicity – Meaning, Areas and Vehicles

Public relations are often confused with publicity, which in simple terms mean making things public or bringing things to the public notice. Many tools including word of mouth to the mass media to advertising to the Internet are used for publicizing information. However, publicity is only one part of public relations.

Many marketing experts put public relations under publicity. Thus, publicity is an important part of public relation. Many tools are used for publicizing information and facts. The major and most effective ones are the mass media. Publicity coverage could be in the form of news stories, news analyses, interviews, features, articles, and editorials in printed media and in news bulletins, interviews, discussions or special programmes on radio and television.

Another form of publicity is the paid variety. This basically involves advertising for which the organization has to pay to the media for the amount of space and time. Yet another variety involves what are called advertorials and inforcials . An advertorial is an advertisement disguised in to form of a news story or feature. And inforcial is the TV counterpart of an advertorial.

Unpaid publicity is considered to be more credible than paid publicity. The paid variety of publicity (advertising) being initiated by the organization is considered to be motivated and one-sided. On the other hand, unpaid publicity, which includes news stories and other editorial content, has more credibility and believability.

Many experts consider advertising to be entirely different and not part of publicity. Advertising is paid-for and involves control over what is said, how it is said, to whom it is said, where it is published, broadcast or placed, and the frequency of placement. Publicity or the unpaid variety does not offer any such control. Publicity material supplied to the media is subject to being screened, edited and even may not even be used.

On the plus side, publicity offers two important benefits:

  • It costs very little-only time and efforts are required, and
  • Publicity is considered more objective than advertising, which is considered to be self-serving. Also publicity enjoys the implicit endorsement of the mass media in which it appears.

Areas of Publicity

The areas and activities of business that are publicized are:

  • Announcing a new product or service: Such announcements to be effective should be made before advertising. If they follow advertising, their news value is lessened considerably.
  • Reorganizing or repositioning old products: In case of existing products, advertising does not work very well. For revitalizing old products, various publicity tools like staged events, sponsorship, etc are used.
  • Explaining a complicated product: Advertisements often do not facilitate a lot of details. So they don’t work well for products and services that require a lot of explanation like in case of insurance, banks and other financial institutions. Here publicity provides enough space for the details and the product stories (messages) can be told fully and effectively.
  • Enhancing the organization’s reputation: Advertising of products (goods, services and ideas, etc) is okay. But when it comes to selling the organization as a whole, advertising can be limiting. Often organizations are involved with a lot of philanthropic works like charities or promoting good causes and ideas. Advertising these activities does not look good. So organizations depend on publicity through mass media.
  • Crisis management: In crisis situations, publicity is the fastest and most credible means of response.

Vehicles of Publicity

From small tabloids to television to sky writing, publicity uses many channels or vehicles. However, the most effective and commonly used vehicle is the newspaper. Even in today’s time of TV and the Internet, newspaper is rated to be the most credible and effective mass medium. This credibility is because of the power of the printed word. Other reasons of newspaper’s popularity as a vehicle of publicity are the widely diversified and in-depth coverage. Then there is variety. Newspapers range from small weeklies to giant dailies.

Other vehicles used for publicity include radio, TV, news agencies, the Internet. Publicity also involves interviews of key personnel of the organization, news conferences, news releases, media trips, special events, exhibitions and fairs, sponsorship’s, etc.

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