What is Public Relations?
As the term implies, Public Relations (PR) requires that you relate to the public in some manner. The question is, “What is a ‘public’ and how do we relate to it?” Several ‘publics’ require our attention as American Legion public relations practitioners. These include but are not limited to:
- Our members
- Wartime veterans eligible for Th e American Legion who are not members
- Th e media
- Local and national elected officials and decision-makers
- Local community members
- Participants and potential participants in American Legion programs
- Donors and potential donors to American Legion programs
- U.S. citizens in general
HOW you relate to the public depends on which public it is and what your message is.
In a nutshell, Public Relations is primarily about IMAGE. And every member of The American Legion plays a role in communicating our image to the various publics to which we relate. The positive and negative things seen and heard at every level of the organization affect peoples’ perceptions of The American Legion. Perception is reality for most people. Nobody wants to join an organization that they do not feel positive about.
The familiarity and reputation of its name are two of the greatest assets of any product or organization. In modern advertising terms, it’s called “branding.” It’s the first thing you think of when you hear a name. For instance, what is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “Lexus”? Do you immediately think of luxury and quality? How about “McDonald’s” or “Hyundai”? Now apply the same exercise to “The American Legion.” Just remember that your perception will be different than what other people
might have because your image of a product or organization is based on your experiences and knowledge. An organization’s image is based on the character, integrity and total performance of the organization. It consists of every contact the organization has with its various publics. It is a composite of:
- The organization’s history in dealing with people
- Internal attitude toward members
- External attitude toward community responsibility and involvement
- News releases, interviews and other dealings with the media
- Internal and external publications
- Internet presence
- Institutional advertising
What is the image of The American Legion today? It depends on which public you ask. To the media in general, we are the largest veterans organization in the nation and are considered to be a reliable source of information relating to veterans issues. In some local communities, The American Legion has no image because no community programs are conducted. In other local communities, members of Th e American Legion are experts on important issues and pillars of the community. Still others may view an American Legion post as a watering hole for older veterans without offering much for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans or their families. Each public’s perception is their reality, and if a negative perception exists, people aren’t likely to join.