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PUTTING YOUR PR PLAN
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www.gabrielpr.ca firstname.lastname@example.org 416.907.2560 25 Sheppard Ave. West, Suite 300 Toronto, ON M2N 6S6
What is Public Relations?
Public Relations, for some time, has been perceived as a function dealing primarily with the media or media relations. Our theory is that one doesn’t really get exposed to all the inner workings of a PR department, until it is pushed through the media. This is only a partial explanation as to why PR is largely associated with media relations; but whatever the reason, we must not forget the brains behind the media relations outﬁt. The Canadian Public Relations Society deﬁnes Public Relations as the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest. (Flynn, Gregory & Valin, 2008). 1 Therefore, a successful PR plan should not rest solely on earning a number of media hits. The two key ingredients in any public relations initiative is, your public and the relationship you have with them. Simple enough? Not quite; not for many.
The Public Relations plan vs. The Communications Plan
Our deﬁnition of the public relations plan is the overarching umbrella plan on how you will build and sustain YOUR public relationships over the long-term and focuses on measuring outcomes i.e. public attitude, perception and behaviour. The communications plan drills down a little further and gets more speciﬁc about the particular types of communications you will employ to engage YOUR public and focuses on measuring outputs i.e. the number of presentations delivered, the number of sales calls made, social media metrics, website analytics and more. The goal for a PR plan, for example, would be to begin to build a relationship with a particular stakeholder group or to improve client relations, investor relations or social media relations whereas a communications plan goal would be to attract more attention to the website or to create an e-newsletter that will create sales leads. You public relations plan will embody a communications plan to build and sustain YOUR public relationships over time.
Who are YOUR public?
YOUR public consists of: clients or customers, employees, investors, the media, social media groups, the government and more. Effective public relations requires that you get to know your audience; know their needs; know what media they read, listen to or watch; know what they think about you; know what they expect from you; know how to communicate with them, what moves them to action and causes them to turn away, thus making YOUR public the driver in your R.A.C.E.
YOUR public map
Source: Gabriel PR, 2010
R.A.C.E. is an acronym used in PR (similar to the 4P’s of Marketing) to lay-out the foundation of the PR plan: Research & Analysis, Communication and Evaluation. Following these four steps will enable you to create an effective PR plan for your business and produce extraordinary results. How is the relationship with YOUR public? In public relations, the emphasis is on the relationship. Keeping an ear to the ground (listening) and monitoring public attitudes, opinions and behaviour is the guide to creating your public relations plan. Dr. Margaret Wheatley, organizational consultant and management professor says, “through relationships, information is created and transformed, the organizations identity expands to include more stakeholders, and the enterprise becomes even wiser.” Dr. Gina Hernez-Broome and Dr. Richard L. Hughes at the Center for Creative Leadership agree that, “relationships among customers and suppliers, individuals and the organization will make or break us in the ‘networked economy.” If you want to measure the status of your relationships, we recommend building a Relationship Measurement Process (RMP) that allows you to continuously collect and monitor feedback from YOUR public on an ongoing basis, so you are prepared to respond to any issues that may arise.
Relationship Measurement Process (RMP)
Source: Gabriel PR, 2010
Research & Analysis: don’t start planning without it!
We live in an “information society” with a wealth of information at our ﬁngertips 2 which means that there’s a lot of information right under our noses, without having to spend the majority of your PR budget on research. Feedback from YOUR public can be collected through a number of mediums: case logs from customer service and sales calls, emails, interviews, focus groups, your website and those of your competitors and industry associations, your twitter and facebook accounts, google searches, media coverage, the employee suggestion box and the list goes on. Wherever you get your information, it’s important to know where you are coming from, before you can map out where you want to go. Ask yourself: “Where are we now?” and begin to take the steps to look into what messages you’ve been communicating and what kind of response you have been getting to those messages. In their book, Using Research in Public Relations 3, professors Glen Broom and David Dozier say, “research is the controlled, objective and systematic gathering of information for the purpose of describing and understanding.” Broom and Dozier quote Blair C. Jackson, a former PR executive from Rogers & Cowan, Inc. saying:
“The most compelling reason for using research is to make sure that your program is the best it can be—that what you are doing is as “right on” as it can be. You will be conﬁdent that you are addressing the right audience, that you are using the right messages and that you are focusing on the right perceptions or attitudes. Evaluation research will tell you whether or not it works.”4
The Research & Analysis Process
1. Identify a research problem What is the problem you are trying to solve? Have sales been too low in this quarter? Are you not seeing as many visitors to your website? What group on your public map does this problem apply to? 2. Research design Where and how will you ﬁnd the information? In your research design, you should be open to getting your information from any combination of sources: Google searches, literature/book reviews, focus groups, surveys, twitter and facebook. 3. Develop research strategy Your strategy will include the goals, objectives, timeline and budget available to carry out the research. This is where you will also identify the individuals on the research team including the research project manager. 4. Generate data Now you are ready to carry out your research strategy and generate the data necessary to determine a solution to your problem. 5. Analyze data This is where you will take a look at the data and identify any glaring statistics or correlations. For example, you might ﬁnd that there was quite a bit of negative feedback on one of your products which resulted in lower sales or that 15% of those who did not buy your product last quarter, also lost their jobs. What an amazing opportunity to build a relationship as you can now create a promotion to have a sale on your products or create a direct mail campaign to send coupons or gift cards to those families who can’t afford your product for the time-being. 6. Produce report Lastly, put together a report that will outline your ﬁnding and recommendations to solve the problem which gets the ball rolling on your communications plan.
Research methods and tools
The most commonly used methods of research today are survey’s, focus groups and textual analysis. Tools like Survey Monkey and Poll Daddy are popular in conducting survey research. Focus groups can include anywhere from 3 to 10 people and are usually carried out in a boardroom setting. Refreshments can be provided and focus group participants are normally paid between $50 to over $100 depending on how much of their time is used. Textual analysis is simply reading books, articles or essays. Databases like Lexis Nexis and Factiva are used to ﬁnd articles relating to speciﬁc industries or categories.
The Communications Plan
Your communications plan will guide you as to what communications or communications activities need to take place to achieve certain goals. Communications is not only about your messages and what you will say, but it includes where and how you will receive messages from YOUR public as well as, what internal communications need to be altered to carry out this plan, or what advertising or website changes do you need to make. Consider all aspects of communications at the stage, both internal and external.
Set S.M.A.R.T. objectives
Create a plan with objectives that are SMART: Speciﬁc, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely Speciﬁc: What do you want to achieve speciﬁcally? Increase in sales, more facebook fans? Or reduce your carbon footprint? Measurable: To make an objective measurable, you simply need to attach a number to it. Gain 100 new customers, move 1,000 more units of product, add 200 more twitter followers. Achievable: Are these objectives that you can achieve in the time required and with the budget you have available? Realistic: Can you realistically achieve these objectives or are they far fetched? Timely: By when will you achieve these objectives? In 6 months or 1 year?
Develop key Messages
It’s important to set out some clear messages and statements in relation to your communications objectives. Determining your messages before-hand will assure that you will always know what to say and when to say it. These messages should also be made clear across all your communications, whether it’s on your website, in a brochure, the employee intranet site or in a presentation.
What’s your strategy?
Your strategy is a high-level overview of what your plan will be. A strategy for a business launch might be to introduce the business to the local community by holding a launch event, continue to meet prospective clients and promote the business in the 6 months following the launch and keep your company top-of-mind through ongoing communications.
Tactics: communicate, communicate, communicate!
Tactics are a more detailed and ﬂeshed-out plan of exactly how you will carry-out your strategy. Using the business launch example your tactics would include: Launch Event • • • • • • • Identify potential customers in the local community Create a mailing list of potential customers Create invites/e-vites announcing the launch Book venue for event Collect gifts and prizes to give away Invite guest speakers Create form for post-event feedback
Ongoing Communications • Develop editorial plan of email marketing campaign • email blast series • news and media releases • blogs • Newsletter Grow Customer Base • Identify and schedule to attend networking events • Apply for public speaking opportunities
Team, Budget & Timeline
As with any business related plan, you need to determine the people on your team, your available budget and you need to map out a detailed timeline.
Make sure you are using people who have strengths in each aspect of your plan. Your team might consist of a project manager to oversee the entire plan, a skilled copywriter/copyeditor for your communications, a graphic designer to design your website or marketing materials and a social media specialist to manage all your social media tools.
What will it cost to roll out this plan? Consider costs for design, printing, distribution, the hours contributed by your team, event venue, catering and audio-visual if necessary. Always add an additional 10% to 15% to your budget for miscellaneous expenses. Your project manager controls the budget and assures that it does not go over what is available.
Setting deadlines and milestones is crucial to the success of your communications plan. Your timeline will help you keep track of where you are and what needs to be done on any given day, week or month. Milestones let you know when you have reached major points in your timeline. Booking a prominent speaker or acquiring all sponsorship dollars necessary would qualify as key milestones in your plan. Your project manager will be responsible for making sure the team stays on track and short-term goals are achieved.
Just like your research, evaluation needs to be planned and analyzed. It’s one thing to generate monitoring reports, but what do these reports tell you about your company and the way you’re doing business? Planning your evaluation means determining what you’re going to measure and how. Your evaluation tactics should also relate directly to your plan objectives. For example, if your objective was to increase website visits by 10% in one month, then you would plan to generate a web analytics report and focus on unique visitors for the month. What does it mean when you don’t meet your objective? It means that whatever you set in your plan to generate more website visitors did not work and that it’s time to return to the drawing board. This is exactly what your evaluation is intended to do. The evaluation phase gives you a clear picture on what works and what does not work.
There is a great deal of emphasis on the importance of relationships and the communications that take place to create and build those relationships. It is equally important to assure that you are speaking to each group in YOUR public map through the mediums they prefer and using the language and messages that will have the greatest impact on them. Public Relations encompasses more than media relations. Public Relations considers all audiences and uses any number of communications tools and strategies to create and build relationships. Where other functions of your business contribute to the bottom line, public relations takes a focus on people and goes beyond the bottom line.
Communication Plan Template
Item Cost Tax Total
Tactic Month 1 Month 2 Month 3
Retrieved from http://www.cprs.ca/uploads/PR_Deﬁnition.pdf on July 29, 2009. The Canadian Public Relations Society Inc., 2010
Frey, L.R. et al. (2000) Investigating Communication: An Introduction to Research Methods Needham Heights, MA, Allyn and Bacon
2 3 4
Broom, G. & Dozier, D. (1989) Using Research in Public Relations, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall
Wilcox, D. L. et al. (2003) Public Relations Strategies and Tactics 7th edition, Boston, MA, Allyn and Bacon
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