Role of Agenda Building in Public Relations

The term Agenda Building as explained by Cobb & Elder, 1971, 1972,1983,Cobb, Ross & Ross, 1976) is that it examines public participation in such a way that various kinds of publics in a population become aware and participate in political conflicts.(Cobb et al., 1976, pg 126) further add that it is a process by which voice of many in the population can catch attention of the public officials. This may be done to accomplish some serious policy change.
The term agenda can be explained as “ a general set of political controversies that will be views as falling within the range of political concerns meriting concerns of the polity.” (Cobb & Elder, 1971, pg 905).There are two types of agenda clearly specified: public and formal. The public agenda consists of “a) subjects of widespread attention and awareness b) perceived of requiring action and c) appropriate concern of some governmental unit.”
The formal agenda refers to the set of issues that decision makers have already formally considered for serious consideration. So any issue that is raised from a governmental body will be a part of the formal agenda.
Johnson et al., 1996 give an interesting insight where budding public relations professionals can take a cue from. They say “it is a collective and reciprocal process where the press, public and public officials influence one another and are at the same time influenced by one another.” They came up with a four-stage model for agenda building “1) real-world conditions starts off the agenda building process; 2) news media increases coverage of the issue; 3) the public picks up signs from real-world conditions and media coverage; and finally 4) the opinion leader reacts upon public concern”. Take all examples that we have seen in the recent past such as the emergence of the swine flu, bird flu etc. If you look at these issues they have all had a similar pattern. The way they started and were later on ‘treated’ by all the parties concerned .It explains how any issue  that which is of public concern is usually handled. Here we have to keep in mind that events though begin with being news events may turn out to be pseudo news events as explained in my earlier blogs.
Would you like to contribute to the above?
Handbook of public relations
 By Robert Lawrence Heath, Gabriel M. Vasquez
Public relations theory II
 By Carl H. Botan, Vincent Hazleton
Research paper “International Agenda-Building and Agenda-Setting: Exploring the Influence of Public Relations Counsel on News Media and Public Perceptions of Foreign Nations” A Manuscript submitted to the Public Relations Division for the annual International
Communication Association conference in New York, NY, to be held on May 26-30, 2005

The Public Relations Guru

PR agencies and Public Relations departments in companies offer crucial image building services to their clients.Their role to improve, enhance the image of their clients is most important. There are various functions like publicity, media relations, lobbying, event management, internal and external communications etc. which are routine.
But the most important role would be that of a consultant, a guide who can see the potential of the client and make them improve or enhance their image. Here he helps the client to use his own talent and expertise to the benefit of the organisation and society at large.Now here I do not mean manipulation or any other such works which also aids in creation of pseudo events and thus pseudo images.
Sometimes it is seen that a client himself doesnt realise his true worth and is stuck in the cycle of publicity and pseudo events which usually does bring some press coverages but its value lasts for a short while.
It is the role of a PR advisor, consultant who helps manifest the potential of his client and helps him grow in his career or business.
The practitioner is therefore a mentor, a guide and a friend who stands by the client in all times and has the courage to speak up to his client when he is going wrong.
Maybe then the client-agency relationship or the PR department-company relationship will go beyond that of an executive or a manager. Maybe then PR relations practitioners will be seen as ‘Gurus’ and not mere publicists.
I am sure it is not simple and sometimes not realistic as it sounds.What could be the obstacles? What do you think?

From my blogpost

Challenges faced by PR pros – Series – Scenario 3 – Quantum of Coverage VS Quality

This week I would request all members to please share your insights and experiences in dealing with clients with unrealistic expectations. Yes I am sure most of you are thinking that this is not something new and most often we have clients telling us during monthly reviews that the number of hits this month are very low and it should have been about ummm…..may be 100 clips? We often end of up sulking among ourselves that the client is very demanding and has huge expectations from PR. So who sets these expectations – the Corporate Communications Head/Marketing & Sales Head. If the Corporate Communications Head has some PR background he would set achievable targets for PR and also set the expectations internally as well however if the Marketing & Sales Head is the decision maker and has less understanding about PR and its value, the agency should take the efforts of educating the client on ‘How PR works’ and how it can help enhance the company’s image/reputation.

So the point that I would like all of us to throw light on is, does getting quantum of coverage help  enhance company’s brand and visibility or  quality of coverage in the appropriate target media reaching the target audience more helpful?

Would request all PR pros and Corporate Communication professionals to come forward and have an interesting discussion and debate on this topic.

* Discussion Series : Initiated by Richa Seth

Exclusive or First Interview – a dilemma faced by PR pros – Scenario 2 – Series – Challenges faced by PR pros

With the increasing number of media channels – print, electronic, wire/online, most media channels are finding ways to get a competitive edge over the other by using various strategies. One of the strategies used by electronic channels and print media is to get an Exclusive or First Interview from companies on any major announcement which will help them get more viewership (TRP)/readership. This policy often puts PR pros into a tight spot especially if the announcement to be made is an important one and requires a mass reach.

I would request all team members to please share your thoughts on what can be done to manage such requests and communicate the announcement to the key stakeholders of the client.

Challenges faced by PR pros – Series – Scenario 1

Scenario – 1 – Demanding Client – No spokesperson, No new announcements. Expectation: Pan India media mileage.

Ever come across a client who is very enthusiastic about PR but has no spokesperson available for media interviews? And has no new announcements to share but expects an ongoing and extremely active PR campaign across India? So what are the strategies & tactics one can explore to build an ongoing pan India campaign? Listed below are some strategies and tactics that can be used:

  1. Create a quarterly campaign based on client’s objectives, target audience and key markets – Share ideas which can be explored on traditional as well as new media (Read social media/company’s owned online properties).
  2. Content is the key for any communication – One can get cues from industry trend stories featured in not only mainline media but trade magazines, online portals, company newsletter and don’t forget to ask you client for research reports (as most companies subscribe to these reports). Data extracted from these can be used to draft interesting pitch notes for Email interviews, Authored articles, Infographics, Photo features, Stats & Trivia
  3. Case Studies – Success case studies are alwaysa great way of showcasing the company’s worth in the industry. PR pros need to be aware of specific columns across media which feature case studies. Keep a track of business & trade magazines as well online portals for the same.
  4. Research Reports/Whitepapers published by the company : This can be shared exclusively with a select mediawhich reaches the appropriate target audience
  5. Media – Once the content is ready and approved by the client, prepare an exhaustive list of target media across cities and make sure online media as well as regional media is included.

Any more thoughts on PR strategies which can be adopted in the above situation?

Trust is key to PR professionals

Have you ever wondered why clients listen to some professionals more than others? Let’s say, you had a brilliant idea for your client and you were unsure if you should take it to the client for fear of being shot down, and you wanted one particular person to do it because the client listened to him/her? Or when there was a mess-up by your team and you wanted this one person to give the client the bad news because you knew that the client would not make a scene because of this one person? If you’ve noticed these, why do you think it happens? Why do clients listen to this one person more than others? Although this one person may not even be a CEO or VP or MD. Why?

Among various other reasons, here’s the most simple reason. Trust. It may sound like a simple word, but trust you me, it doesn’t come easy. Its tougher to build trust in PR than in most other professions. And why is this trust so difficult to achieve? Because it requires a demonstrated capability of experience, knowledge, street-smartness and resourcefulness. Really heavy sounding words behind the oh-so-simple word called trust. Once this trust is developed between a PR professional and the client, this man will enjoy client’s support even if he commits murders.

But building your client’s trust takes some doing. No, not years or months or weeks because this stuff isn’t time dependent. It’s dependent on the number of times you’ve delighted the client with your work. Its about the number of times you’ve rescued your client from crisis. Its about the number of times you’ve stopped the client from making a PR blunder. And its also the number of times you’ve done things a client hasn’t paid you to do. But you’ve done it nonetheless and amazed the client with the results.

This is a trust that does not automatically come with time. It only comes from ‘demonstrated capabilities’. Its not even restricted to senior professionals with loads of experience. It may come easier to seniors, but I’ve seen executives with one, two years in the job create a trust for themselves purely with their zest for showing great results. I’ve seen clients not wanting to talk to the seniors of an agency team, because they found more value in these executives. So, believe me when I say, that you don’t have to be a senior for your clients to trust you and look up to you. What you need is a zest to demonstrate great results. Repeatedly.

If you’re able to do this, you’ll cement your place faster than anyone else. You’ll rise quickly and dramatically because your employers would not want to waste your time in minor stuff that others can do. For them, that would be waste of a very valuable resource. For the same reasons, and much to your delight, you’ll do well in business development. Clients will want to pay exorbitant fees to have you working on their account. Most of the top agencies today charge a premium because of a set of similar people they have on their payroll.

The aim of this piece is to tell all of those who think they’ve to learn a lot before they can start making strategies and present brilliant PR ideas – you’re so wrong. Don’t stop yourself from doing something a human mind is designed to do – thinking. And of course, acting. Delivering delightful PR results is not subject to seniority. Truly speaking, if you think you’re not senior enough to deliver quality results, chances are you won’t be able to deliver what an executive is supposed to!


Aarif Malik
Mumbai. INDIA.
Cell: +91 9833934002