Public relations according to Rex Harlow is the communications management function that seeks to build, maintain and protect reputations, develop and maintain positive images and perceptions, change negative perceptions into neutral ones and eventually into positive ones, create positive, clear and satisfying communications with customers and others being served, and manage outside communication to ensure accuracy and positive perceptions.
It is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organisation and its public. It involves the management of problems, helps management to keep informed on, and responsibility to public opinion,defines and emphasise the responsibility of management to serve the public interest.
Public Relations can be used by the following;
- COOPERATIONS: They use public relations as a vehicle to reach legislators and other politicians, seeking favorable tax, regulatory, and other treatment, and they may use public relations to portray themselves as enlightened employers, in support of human-resources recruiting programs. They also employ public relations as part of their marketing strategy to ensure a good name and image for their products and/or services.
- NON-PROFIT ORGANISATIONS: Such as schools and universities, hospitals and human and social service agencies, use public relations in support of awareness programs, fund-raising programs, staff recruiting, and to increase patronage of their services.
- Politicians employ many public relations tools to attract votes and raise money, and, when successful at the ballot box, to promote and defend their performance in office, with an eye to the next election or, at career's end, to their legacy.
- The various branches of the military use public relations - usually called "public affairs" - internally to boost morale and to inform and educate service men and women about military issues and current events, and externally to facilitate the flow of information between the military and civilian worlds, as well as between members of the military and their families and communities.