In Public Relations, publics are groups of individual people. These groups come together to create the public (or the general public).
According to Brad L. Rawlins and Shannon A. Bowen (2005) in “Publics”;
A public is a subset of the set of stakeholders for an organisation, that comprises those people concerned with a specific issue. Whilst a market has an exchange relationship with an organisation, a public does not necessarily have an exchange relationship, and is both self-catering and self-organising.
To put that simply, publics are groups of people that don’t always have give-and-take relationships with an organisation.
Publics comprise of all kinds of different people, including an organisation’s local community, online community, employees, customers, suppliers, distributors, suppliers, opinion leaders and more. Publics are defined by their situation, and publics can change at any time.
There are also different kinds of publics, as according to Grunig and Hunt’s “Situational Theory of Publics” (1984):
- Latent Publics – the people in these groups have some links to one another, but they are not banded together as a group
- Aware Publics – these people are interested in seeking further information
- Active Publics – these have common interests and actively seek out further information. They are often determined on action.
- Non-publics – these people will often ignore an organisation or have very little interest
If you ever need to remember that there are different kinds of public, just remember that Marilyn Monroe thanked her ‘adoring public’ and that you are a member of the general public, but not of every one of the publics.
You are an active member of some communities, aware of other communities, and completely uninterested in others.