by Evan Whittaker
As you may know, the academic Public Relations Program at the University of Central Missouri recently found its new home in the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies. In previous years, the PR Program has been part of the Communications Department for rather obvious reasons; PR focuses heavily on communication. So, considering the recent move to the business college, does PR really have an important place in a business environment?
In a word: absolutely.
Public relations can serve numerous valuable purposes in any business. Here are a few examples:
Connecting with consumers
This is perhaps the most obvious answer. One of the primary goals of public relations is to ensure that the messages an organization sends to its publics (and vice versa) are strategically distributed and meaningfully understood. When considering the goals of a business, the benefits of PR become readily apparent.
In essence, a business aims to create value for shareholders by providing products or services to consumers. Public relations professionals can craft strategic, targeted messages for the business to attract and retain those consumers. In addition, PR pros can ensure that the business has a clear understanding of its consumers and is receiving clear messages from them. This can help the business to refine and expand its offerings, thereby creating a mutually beneficial relationship.
PR in management
Public relations also can be extremely useful in communicating with a business’s internal publics, such as employees. If you take a minute to read how PRSA defines public relations, you’ll see the phrase “management function” appears several times. That’s because the knowledge and training public relations professionals receive in the areas of organizational communication, strategic messaging and audience analysis all prove extremely beneficial for business managers.
A key element of executive leadership is the ability to communicate effectively with employees, and arguably PR professionals are among the highest skilled individuals when it comes to crafting effective messages that maximize understanding. By facilitating clear and meaningful communication between management staff and employees, PR pros can help to create a positive and constructive work environment.
Investors often play a vital role in a business’ success. Their investments add value to the business and provide it with the opportunity to grow. This undoubtedly designates investors as an important public for virtually every professional organization.
Often, the struggle for businesses regarding investors is not only to attract new prospects, but also to retain those who have already invested. A PR professional can be a valuable asset for a business’s investor relations program because, although the investors’ interest is often primarily focused on financial information, public relations practitioners are highly skilled in communicating strategic messages to specific audiences. This means that input from a PR pro regarding the best ways to convey this information can be the difference between attracting/retaining investors and a missed opportunity to expand.
These are just a few examples of the numerous public relations functions that can benefit nearly any business. The relocation of UCM’s PR Program to the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies signifies a growing trend, as business-minded professionals are beginning to acknowledge and support the benefits PR can bring to the table.
By Raysha Sally
UCM PR program professors often incorporate guest speakers into our curriculum by bringing alumni back to campus or inviting contacts to campus. Recently in Professor Tom Heapes’ PR Management and Industry Practices course, students were introduced to Eric Morgenstern, owner of Morningstar Communications in Kansas City.
Morgenstern spent his Monday afternoon chatting with students via Skype, and the information and insight he offered left a lasting impression. Morgenstern befriended Heapes at Boasberg Valentine Radford in Kansas City. They worked together for ten years before Morgenstern branched off and started Morningstar Communications on Oct 1, 1997.
Since the class Morgenstern was speaking to focuses on PR business and management, he gave insight into struggles he and his wife first faced when starting the business, but also spoke of their success. One story he told that stuck with students was that he had no job, no clients, and no income when he resigned from his position at Boasberg but the day of Morningstar’s launch was able to secure his first client. That number quickly grew from one to eight, then to 12. As Morningstar secured more clients, its number of employees increased; the Morgensterns quickly learned their family’s home could no longer act as the business’s office.
Lessons from a professional
Morgenstern’s stories regarding his personal experience, as well as his excitement helped keep students engaged in the discussion. In addition to being relatable and enthusiastic, his advice and wisdom also stuck with the students. He told students if they take one bit of information or fact from him it is to “Never (make anyone mad).” He explained the quote by saying that the industry is small and though you might “wear different jerseys and play for different teams,” it is important to value relationships because they might help you down the road. He referenced his relationship to Heapes; they once “wore the same jersey” but their careers took them to different teams yet they still communicate and utilize each other’s expertise from time to time.
Morgenstern advised students to be life-long learners and said those with a passion for learning will continue to be successful. He also encouraged students to read one business book every month. As a professional he considers life-long learners to be the best kind of people to hire. He used an analogy about the fax machine and how it revolutionized the way business was done; he explained everyone had to learn how to utilize fax machines. Now, of course, fax machines seem dated; business and technology are constantly changing and adapting and employees must be able to change and adapt as well.
One student asked Morgenstern for his definition of public relations; his response “Do good and get caught,” five simple words that put our four-year degree in perspective. He explained that as PR professionals we need to do the right thing and make it known to people that we are doing the right thing.
I challenge each and every one of you reading this to
- 1) Never make anyone mad.
- 2) Read one business a book every month.
- 3) Do good and get caught.
by Ashley Dolan
From the beginning of Innovative PR’s work with Christian Campus House (CCH), I could tell the project was going to be different from any our agency coordinated. CCH brought the initiative called Something to Eat to the University of Central Missouri (UCM) campus last year. This project is a hands-on food packaging event where meals are assembled by volunteers on site, then shipped to communities in need. Last year the UCM campus came together and packaged more than 5,000 meals. Though the donated meals made a great impact on those in need, CCH knew they could give more. CCH reached out to Innovative PR to help the event reach its full potential.
Something to Eat at UCM has been a unique experience for our agency. It’s such a visual and hands-on project that it’s fun just being at the tent, taking it all in. From the colorful signs that fill the tent, to the pictures of people who were fed last year, CCH has made this event a point of attraction. There are great photo opportunities for students that package meals and a tower that shows UCM’s progress in reaching the goal of assembling 13,220 meals.
Innovative PR provided the opportunity for participants to share their experience at Something to Eat on social media, which serves as a tool to recruit their friends to take part in the initiative. Groups and organizations really took hold of the option for the group sign-up. From the UCM Cheer Squad to sororities, church youth groups and entire classes, the idea of feeding people together became a reality this week.
Witnessing the excitement students and the community have for the Something to Eat project is chilling. News of the event spread like wildfire throughout campus. The first day of the event I couldn’t stop refreshing my Twitter timeline, as I watched the online conversation and use of #SomethingtoEat skyrocket.
The passion CCH has for the cause mirrors Innovative PR’s passion for public relations and giving back to the UCM campus. Our client doesn’t know this, but their enthusiasm has inspired many of our ideas, generated our passion, and this has created impressive results for Something to Eat.
So far more than 3,000 meals have been packaged and with all of the support from the community we can’t wait to see the impact that this event will make by the end of the week.
This experience has taught me so much about working together for a cause, but what it all comes down to is the power of giving back.
When you do good for others, good things happen.