Specialization of labor has helped human civilization to grow and expand for thousands of years. As jobs and even everyday activities become more technical, the need for well-trained experts in the fields of IT, business, medicine and engineering continue to rise.
One field gaining popularity and importance in the business world is public relations. Today, people rely on PR firms to chart the way ahead even when they have little more than the end goal in mind. Such was the case of an Iowa school district looking to hire a PR firm to lobby on their behalf.
The Tall Order
According to Newton Daily News, board member, Donna Cook directed “administration to hire a PR firm to promote and market the district’s attempt to pass a general-obligation bond of more than $24 million.” The district would then use the funds to rebuild the Berg Complex. Yet, though the Newton Community School District (NCSD) acknowledged the need for a PR firm, the district had no guidelines in place.
In essence, the NCSD voted to hire a PR firm without specifying budget or objectives. While this shows some under-preparedness on their part, it also marks a wise decision. The board clearly preferred leaving the professional work and the tough decisions up to the experts. This leaves room to create fresh ideas and grow as it tackles a difficult task.
Even so, NCSD had a goal. According to Newton Daily News, “a 60 percent approval is needed for an Iowa school bond to pass, and a failed bond vote cannot be brought back before the voters for at least six months”. This required considerable persuasion convincing people of the worthiness of this investment. It also required the district to get it right the first time to prevent long wait times.
The Strength of PR
NCSD’s decision to employ a PR firm to tackle this tall order, even without knowing what objectives it called for, shows the strength of PR in modern business. Not only do companies rely on PR pros to build their brands, but non-profit organizations also need PR companies to push their agenda.
As a result, even if clients don’t know exactly what they need from PR agencies, they know they can count on PR experts to effect the changes needed moving them forward.
Still, not everyone thought it best to hire a PR firm to lead the way. Two of the seven voters in attendance did not agree with the motion. Despite the lack of full support, hiring PR firms to handle organizational issues and events becomes more common every day.
This is true not just in lower-level education, but specifically in Iowa. For example, this summer, the University of Iowa made headlines when it hired a part-time PR specialist for a whopping $20,000 per month. Not surprisingly, many students protested the move and questioned whether or not this was a good way to spend their hard-earned tuition money.
While not specifying a budget, the NCSD took some initiative to ensure all costs and spending are justifiable. As Cook, phrased it, “Between the penny pincher, and the competitive one, they’ll figure it out”. Appointing two persons of such varying but complementary personalities to oversee the budget ensures a good compromise between quality and cost.
Having some limitations in place is necessary for business. Companies often forget PR firms are businesses too and aim to make a profit. Subsequently, any leeway in that department could lead to the school paying far more than intended – or can afford – to get its message across to respective parties.
As the market becomes more competitive in all industries, more organizations will hire PR firms to lead the brand’s way through the market, or to lobby on their behalf. This is a good thing, as it frees up other professionals and businesses to spend time doing what they do best – whether that involves making good music, selling artwork or educating the upcoming generation.
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