Monday, April 8, 2013

Public relations plan elements

public relations plan
Just like many aspects of business (and life in general), a public relations program works best when it is planned out. One way to describe the public relations process is RACE, an acronym coined by John Marston in his book "The Nature of Public Relations." RACE describes the four elements of public relations:
  • Research -- What is the problem or situation?
  • Action (program planning) -- What is going to be done about it?
  • Communication (execution) -- How will the public be told?
  • Evaluation -- Was the audience reached and what was the effect?
A public relations plan provides a framework for a campaign. According to the book "Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics" (Wilcox, Ault, Agee and Cameron), a public relations plan includes the following elements:
  • Situation
  • Objectives
  • Audience
  • Strategy
  • Tactics
  • Calendar/Timetable
  • Budget
  • Evaluation
Let's look at each of these elements individually.

Situation. This element provides a brief overview of the public relations plan and why it was needed in the first place. A quick summary of any research related to the public relations plan is appropriate in this section as well.

Objectives. In general, objectives fall into two categories: informational and motivational. Informational objectives generally focus on an increase in public awareness and/or delivery of key messages, while motivational objectives relate to quantifiable measures such as an increase in sales. One example of an informational objective from my work with Thrivent Financial was "Raise Thrivent Financial's visibility in the investments industry as a means of attracting top talent."

Audience. The best approach is to have a specific audience, such as one based on age, geography, gender, etc.

Strategy. The strategy section of a public relations plan describes how the objectives are going to be achieved. This element of the plan also should include the key themes or messages of the campaign. An example of a strategy from the Thrivent Financial plan was "Highlight the organization's consistent, competitive performance to media."

Tactics. This section outlines the day-to-day actions that will activate the strategies in order to achieve the objectives. Each strategy often has several tactics supporting it. Examples of tactics range from press releases to media tours to press conferences and more.

Calendar/Timetable. Not only is it important to outline when a public relations campaign will take place, it also is vital to determine the sequence of activities and a calendar of when the specific tactics and steps need to happen.

Budget. A budget can provide an overall total for the campaign and/or a breakdown of budget items for each of the campaign components. Budgets are often divided into staff time and out-of-pocket expenses (wire services, mileage, etc.).

Evaluation. This is the "E" in RACE. This section ties back to the objectives to see if they were achieved at the end of the public relations campaign.

Having a public relations plan provides an excellent overview of a public relations campaign and is very useful along the way to mark progress in a campaign. A plan also helps everyone involved understand the big picture.
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