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Public Relations in Not-For-Profit Organisations Report

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Updated: May 25th, 2020

Definition of public relations in terms of not-for-profit organisations and how it is practised in the field

Public relations (PR) is a field involved in the management of information between firms and the public (Hallahan, Holtzhausen, Van Ruler, Verčič & Sriramesh, 2007, p. 5; Mackey, 2009, p. 47). In the context of not-for-profit (non-profit) organisations, PR could be defined as an act of communicating with various stakeholders about several issues that could be important to organisations or the public. Not-for-profit organisations do not utilise their financial proceeds to offer dividends. However, they use financial gains in achieving their goals. PR officials in such organisations are concerned with managing information that they consider appropriate to share with the public.

Organisations are interested in implementing communication approaches that could be used to improve effectiveness and reduce redundancies. They practise PR in the field with the aim of establishing and maintaining profitable relationships with including customers, beneficiaries, donors, employees and community leaders, among the others (Hallahan 2007 p. 15).

The decision to share essential information with the public should be approved by the management. However, the information could be conceptualised by PR officials or top-level managers. Before the public is aware of specific aspects of a non-profit organisation, all the personnel and other important stakeholders involved in the running of a business should be informed about it. This is suggested by the systems theory that is used to view organisations as collections of independent entities (Mackey 2009 p. 58).

The practice of PR in the field can be based on the theory of structural functionalism, which states that departments within an organisation can be free to implement their strategies (Mackey 2009, p. 59). In the context of non-profit organisations, PR departments can be viewed as semi-autonomous systems that can make their independent decisions with regard to the type of information that should be shared with the public. It is critical for professionals in the field of PR to consider the processes of transmitting information to the public. The communication theories assert that channels of distributing information can negatively impact on the intention of communicating with various stakeholders (Mackey 2009 p. 60). While practising PR, the best approaches are adopted to ensure that information reaches its target in its original form. Strategic PR approaches are used based on the prevailing cultural aspects. Integration of cultural considerations in PR is proposed by the cultural theory (Mackey 2009 p. 61).

Information is created in a manner that it cannot deviate from cultural standards that are associated with a certain community. Finally, another way of PR practice is the use of the rhetorical theory to ensure that information is effectively delivered to recipients. The theory argues that PR professionals should utilise their skills to persuade the public to hold certain views. With regard to non-profit organisations, the public should be influenced to get the information that is spread with the goal of benefiting both the public and the businesses.

The role and functions of PR in not-for-profit and charitable organisations

PR has important roles and functions in running non-profit and charitable organisations. It aims at promoting communication management within companies. This role is concerned with adopting the best communication approaches that could be used to communicate with stakeholders based on the set objectives. In fact, this is a crucial role because every communication strategy is executed on the premises of the organisation’s short-term and/or long-term goals. This function of PR increases the chances of a group to achieve its objectives.

Crisis management is a critical function of PR because it helps in dealing with emergencies that can negatively impact establishment operations. For example, PR can play an important role in explaining to the public the origin of events that cause undesired effects and/or performance outcomes. With a well-detailed framework of explanations, an establishment could benefit by preventing distortion of its public image (Grunig 2006 p. 162).

Non-profit and charitable organisations utilise PR to avoid the occurrences of events that could sever relationships with various stakeholders. Thus, relationship management is an integral role of PR that is used to build and maintain approaches that are essential in building and preserving relationships. Effective management of relationships is also important in maintaining the ideal reputation of an organisation. However, reputation management is largely executed by PR through corporate social responsibility functions that have a direct impact on the public (Hutton, Goodman, Alexander & Genest 2001, p. 249).

PR is involved in the strategic management of resources that may result in improved outcomes (Grunig, 2006, p. 157). In this context, PR professionals are involved in formulating goals, planning for their execution, budgeting, and managing financial resources. In fact, PR has a critical role in promoting efficient management of resources. In case it is confirmed that resources are not well utilised, its duty is to explain to the stakeholders why they were not spent as planned (Grunig, 2006, p. 154; Hallahan, 2007, p. 17). The last role of PR is considered to be strategic management of non-profit and charitable organisations by helping management teams to develop and execute policies that take into account the interests of the public.


Grunig, JE 2006, ‘Furnishing the edifice: Ongoing research on public relations as a strategic management function’, Journal of Public relations research, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 151-176. Web.

Hallahan, K, Holtzhausen, D, Van Ruler, B, Verčič, D, & Sriramesh, K 2007, ‘Defining strategic communication,’ International Journal of Strategic Communication, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 3-35. Web.

Hutton, JG, Goodman, MB, Alexander, JB, & Genest, CM 2001, ‘Reputation management: the new face of corporate public relations?’, Public Relations Review, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 247-261. Web.

Mackey, S 2009, ‘Theoretical perspectives’, in J Johnston & C Zawawi (eds), Public relations: Theory and practice, Allen & Unwin, Crest Nest, NSW, pp. 48-77. Web.

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