Rock Products

NOV 2012

Rock Products is the aggregates industry's leading source for market analysis and technology solutions, delivering critical content focusing on aggregates-processing equipment; operational efficiencies; management best practices; comprehensive market

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No Such Thing As The Public All Organizations have Publics in Four Main Categories: Shareholders, Customers, Community and Employees. By Thomas J. Roach The term public relations is misleading. The word public is a reification – an ab‐ straction that has only the appearance of being real and having substance. A more accurate but grammatically prob‐ lematic name for the profession would be "publics relations", because profes‐ sional communicators deal with a broad range of internal and external publics that often have little in common. Community relations is less misleading, although some might suppose that com‐ munity means only external publics, and public relations, in order to be ef‐ fective, must coordinate communication between all publics. Every organization should articulate its publics list. While a full breakdown of publics is more exten‐ sive, all organizations have publics in four main categories: shareholders, cus‐ tomers, the community at large, and employees. The shareholder public may be small in the case of a business like a family owned quarry, or large as in the case of the publicly traded Vulcan Materials Co. In a not‐for‐profit organization like United Way, the shareholder public is replaced by a list of major contributors and donors. Publicly traded companies necessarily break down the shareholder public into many subcategories that would include top shareholders, mutual funds, and mediating publics like invest‐ ment firms and financial news sources. Taking Responsibility Customer publics are usually the re‐ sponsibility of marketing departments. In a strict definitional sense, marketing is a subcategory of public relations, be‐ cause it deals with only one of the four publics categories. In practice, however, the importance of the customer public often requires companies to have mar‐ 28 ROCKproducts • NOVEMBER 2012 keting departments that are signifi‐ cantly larger than their public rela‐ tions departments. The community public is often the most ignored public. It consists of area residents and their public officials. A subgroup of the community public that is extremely important for many quarry operations is the residents who live close enough to the quarry to be impacted by blasting and truck traffic and environmental concerns. Employee publics vary greatly depend‐ ing on the size, degree of specialization, and labor relations requirements of the organization. Enlightened management realizes that employees are the most important public, as they are the engine that drives profitability, customer satis‐ faction, and community relations. Generic Breakdown A generic breakdown of employee publics would include senior manage‐ ment, middle management, exempt employees, hourly employees and union employees. Further distinctions could be made for large groups of spe‐ cialized workers like heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, sales staff and clerical staff. One process for creating a public list is by making a list of all the publics the or‐ ganization is currently engaging. Then consider the publics that might require attention in the future. This second step is important for crisis communication planning. Lastly, try to name the publics who could provide valuable feedback to the organization and who could be managed better if reciprocal communi‐ cation were established. Some organizations might have one Thomas J. Roach, Ph.D., has 30 years ex- perience in communication as a journal- ist, media coordinator, communication director and consultant. He has taught at Purdue University Calumet since 1987, and is the author of "An Interview- ing Rhetoric." He can be reached at person dealing with all publics, and some might have teams of communica‐ tions specialists dealing with important subcategories of publics. Smaller busi‐ nesses that have no professional com‐ municators on staff can at least alert their employees to the importance of recognizing the key publics through the mission statement and other communi‐ cation channels. An awareness of the mosaic of publics that are important to the company can also help prevent over emphasizing one public at the expense of the other publics. This happens most often when an overemphasis on marketing to cus‐ tomer publics and shareholder publics results in ignoring the needs and con‐ cerns of the employee and community publics. When this happens short‐term gains can be achieved, but the decline in the quality of products and services and the tarnishing of reputation inevitably lead to long‐term losses. E

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