What is Public Relations and How Does it Benefit Your Organization’s Reputation?

What is Public Relations and How Does it Benefit Your Organization’s Reputation?

Written by Pete E Cento, Managing Director, The Cento Group, Naples, FL  – August 15, 2013

Naples, FL – August 20, 2013 – What is public relations and how does it benefit your company’s reputation? Whether you’re a communications professional working in the PR industry or a business deciding whether to hire a PR professional to enhance your organization’s reputation with the public including consumers, it’s a question worth asking.

In today’s fast-paced world the role of a public relations practitioner is changing with a host of new channels of communication. These channels include social media strategy and messaging, content marketing, inbound marketing, and so on. The skills being used to deliver the message to the pubic is very much founded in public relations.

The reality today is that effective communication is a combination of strategic PR, digital media and online marketing. All of us should be incorporating best practices from each other’s disciplines to provide clients with creative communications that persuade and influence.

Public relations can be defined in many ways, but ultimately, it can be condensed as follows: “Public relations creates and protects reputation and builds relationships.”

Since graduating from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University, I’ve been a long-time member of the Public Relations Society of America, Miami and Southwest Florida Chapters (PRSA); the Florida Public Relations Association, Southwest Florida Chapter (FPRA); Miami International Press Club; National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ); and I currently serve as co-moderator and Southwest Florida Manager of the South Florida Public Relations Network (SFPRN) and the PR Daily Digest.

I first began my journey to “the dark side” of PR and media relations in the mid 90s at Burger King Corporation in Miami. The transition from working as assignment desk editor and news producer for CBS Miami, Telemundo/NBC and Univision Network in Miami to the corporate world was difficult.

I was accustomed to working in a busy newsroom environment with police scanners blasting in the background, phones ringing off the hook on the assignment desk, with the preferred communication of yelling about “breaking news events” between reporters, news producers and assignment desk editors. Then there were the shouted assignments for news crews to cover the weekly county commission meetings. That was then.

But in the corporate word, I found myself sitting in a small cubicle on the seventh floor of a waterfront, glass-paned building across from Biscayne Bay on Old Cutler Road and Eureka Drive in south Miami-Dade County. My role at Burger King included working as media relation’s specialist in the global communications department and managing crisis incidents at Burger King’s company-owned and franchised locations in the Caribbean, North America and Canada.  There were days I would stare out the window at a school of dolphins frolicking in Biscayne Bay. I managed numerous crisis incidents, including tainted iced tea, Mad-Cow disease, alleged food poisoning cases from customers, i.e., salmonella and E-Coli, shootings, robberies, hostage situations, and the bombing incident at the 1996 Atlanta, Georgia summer Olympic Village.

After working for Burger King, I represented a number of global clients at The IAC Group, a Hispanic marketing, advertising and PR firm in Miami. I was responsible for developing strategic media relations and integrated marketing campaigns for Pfizer, Target Corporation, AT&T Wireless, The Real Yellow Pages from BellSouth, Publix Super Markets and Anheuser-Busch. I developed a disaster preparedness manual and disaster communication plan for AT&T Wireless senior-level executives in Atlanta and also served as media spokesperson during four hurricanes and tropical storms that impacted South Florida and The Florida Keys.

After working for two years on the agency side, I accepted a new job as Associate Director, Media Relations for the University of Miami. I managed a staff of four writers and six interns and was responsible for promoting the UM School of Law, School of International Studies, UM Nursing School, UM Department of Psychology and the Rosenstiel School of Atmospheric Science. During my tenure at UM, I managed several global issues, including a Billfish research project in the Florida Keys, “How Hurricanes Form in the Atlantic Ocean” and U.S. and Cuba relations with the Elian Gonzales crisis, the 5- year-old Cuban boy who was found floating on a raft, his mother drowned at sea, while escaping the Communist regime in Cuba. Everyday for more than 8 months, UM professors were interviewed by global media, including the Boston Globe, New York Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, MSNBC, CNN, PBS, CBS News, ABC News and NBC News. I also served as UM spokesperson during the annual Atlantic-basin hurricane season and during numerous crisis situations at the university.

From 2005 to 2012, I worked as PIO and External Affairs Field Specialist for the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). During my tenure working for the federal government, I was deployed to more than 40 disasters from California to Massachusetts and effectively communicated FEMA’s role before, during and after a disaster with local and national media in response to aftermath of severe flooding, tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, ice storms, wildfires and severe droughts. I also produced a Disaster & Hurricane Preparedness television program for Space Coast Government Television (SCGTV) and Orange County TV in 2008 in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay. (Sept. – Dec. 2008)

During my career in Communications, PR, media relations, marketing and now social media, I’ve represented a number of clients as Managing Director and President of The Cento Group, a multilingual and multicultural PR firm founded in Miami in 1996. For more than 16 years, I have developed strategic communications, PR, marketing, social media strategy, public affairs, disaster preparedness and government and community relations for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Southern Florida and Puerto Rico Chapters, Fox Broadcasting Company’s launch of MundoFOX, Spanish-language broadcast television network in August 2012, Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, New American Alliance in Washington, DC, NOAA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations — as a communications process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing “mutually beneficial relationships.”

“Process” is preferable to “management function,” which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications. Instead of defining process, relationships and publics, how about providing examples of creative ways you have engaged in these efforts as they correlate to public relations. The goal of the blog is to share personal business experiences so freelancers can relate to and learns from your efforts.

As a management function, your public relations strategy may also comprise some of the following tactics:

  • Anticipate, analyze and interpret public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
  • Counsel management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication
  • Take into account the public ramifications of business decisions, policy, products or services and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
  • Research, analyze and measure the progress of, action items and marketing communications to determine if you successfully reached your target audience.
  • Collaborate with internal partners to identify goals, budget and give staff the tools to manage programs and organizational

The good news is that public relations pros are doing something of significance to help bridge the gap between the public and organizations. And, if you’re thinking about hiring a public relations expert – because you feel reputation and relationships are important to your organization and you need to be persuasive with people who matter to you – be assured, you’re thinking along the right lines.

Media contact:

Pete Cento

Managing Director, The Cento Group


thecentogroup@me.com | www.thecentogroup.com