Public perception is an ever-growing concern for businesses and organizations. Over the years, organizations have put much effort into building their image and reputation. The National Football League (NFL) is no exception to this rule and have recently made notable steps in increasing their public relation strategies. In the past five years, social media and other media outlets have shined a light on issues with players in the NFL ranging from accusations of domestic violence and child abuse to drug usage. In response to these allegations, the public and fans across the nation expected some type of response from NFL leaders but the response given to such incidences were considered to be insensitive and insufficient. This paper will explore the world of public relations while examining how it relates to marketing and how firms such as the NFL can handle crisis situations through proper public relation strategies.

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The practice of public relations (PR) has been around for decades and continuously evolves. While there are many definitions for PR, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) describes it as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public” (n.d.). In the early conception of public relations, PR was simply defined as a way for organizations to engage and build relationships, however, over time PR has evolved to PR complex process that includes communications, analytics, researching and policymaking (PRSA, n.d.). With so many pieces playing a role in the PR process, one can assume that those involved in public relations must wear many hats, including some marketing. This is because public relations often entail image and reputation management, which may require additional efforts from the organization.

Connection Between PR and Marketing
As previously discussed, public relations involve managing an organization’s image, but can entail many duties to achieve their goal. With the evolving functions of both PR and marketing, their strategies began to look similar even though, in reality, they are different. Professionals in both public relations and marketing aim to reach similar, or often times, the same target audience (Turney, 2001). Because they tend to reach the out to the same demographic, businesses have started to align both PR and marketing departments by incorporating strategies that can be beneficial for both (Turney, 2001). However, the integration of the two does not change the ultimate goal of each. Both marketing and public relations have goals that will benefit both the company and the customer, but their approaches to such may differ because marketing is intended to make consumers aware of products or services that they may need or want. Overall, the biggest connection between the marketing and public relations is the fact that both have accepted that they each can adapt certain strategies that once was only viewed as beneficial for one or the other.

Similarities Between PR and Marketing
Goals set by both public relations and marketing are what keeps the two different from one another, however, their methods to obtain those goals are what led to the alignment of both departments. Over the past thirty or so years, professionals who work in PR or marketing have noticed that they both can benefit using similar strategies. For instance, the NFL has used new marketing efforts to not only encourage sales, but to also maintain their fan base. They accomplished such through the use of publicity across multiple platforms (Neely, 2016), which once use to be a strategy solely used by PR departments (Turney, 2001). The success of such a strategy boosted sales as well as helping the NFL remain a profitable entity with little disruption from controversial issues that have plagued the league recently. Furthermore, this strategy also proved that public relations can indeed benefit from advertising efforts.

Differences Between PR and Marketing
For those that have worked in public relations and marketing, the differences between the two are quite clear. On the other hand, these differences are less apparent to the public because of the similar techniques used by each. The differences between the two are mainly seen in their goals. Marketers sole purpose and function revolves around increasing a company’s profit and sales by promoting goods or services through the means of advertising, communication, targeting and, most recently, publicity (Turney, 2001). Public relation professionals’ purpose is to build and maintain a positive image for their organization by building mutual understandings between the public and organizations through the means of publicity, research, communication and advertising (Turney, 2001). Another key difference is how they measure their success. For marketers, this measurement is fairly easy and can be done by reviewing sales (Turney, 2001). Success of a PR campaign is a little trickier as it requires gauging public perception, which may take additional analytics to compare (Turney, 2001).

Importance of PR During a Crisis
Even though the NFL was able to maintain and grow their fan base, many still take note to the fact that there was no initiative for crisis management or communication discussing or condemning those allegations. Under normal circumstances, this could have been extremely detrimental to an organization’s growth. Fortunately for the NFL, their marketing campaign helped counter this possibility, however, businesses should be weary of following the NFL’s lead. Crisis management is an important factor to maintaining a positive image (Turney, 2001). This doesn’t mean that strategies will change, but communication efforts should become slightly more aggressive. By doing so, organizations can prevent themselves from losing key stakeholders, having a tarnished reputation or a decrease in sales (Turney, 2001). Furthermore, crisis management could actually boost a company’s reputation by the organization successfully showing their commitment to social responsibility.

Public relations are a very important function to any organization or business. Throughout the use of communication, publicity, research and advertising, PR professionals build mutually beneficial relationships with the public. However, in recent years, public relations have evolved to incorporating methods used by marketers, which have somewhat blurred the lines between marketing and PR for some but it is important to remember that their goals are vastly different. Although some examples such as the NFL’s most recent marketing involving the promotion of fantasy football have proven why PR professionals use, marketing tools to counter negative publicity. Although, organizations need to be weary of how they choose to address crisis situations so that they can properly address or prevent drops in reputation or image.