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As many of you know, I earned by APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) last year. Quite the process, I learned far more than I thought via studying assigned literature. One such piece, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th edition (EPR 10) was invaluable.
Having practiced public relations for large and boutique firms, I felt secure in my abilities. My APR study course reassured me, but I learned a great deal about structures and systems that can me, as a public relations communications professional, do a better job. One of those is what the book calls “Public Relations Strategic Planning Outline”. It basically outlines the four step process most of us are familiar with – Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation (RPIE) – and adds in steps for each.
This blog post will outline the RPIE process and EPR 10′s suggested 10 steps. I’ve added in notes on how we apply these within our company with hopes that helps get your wheels turning too!
Step 1 – Research & Define the Problem
I find this surprisingly simple, but it’s so important. How many times a PR professional are we so busy trying to address an issue that we don’t even take the time to really look at it and define it. in EPR 10, they go so far as to really detail the situation in two suggested steps:
- Define the problem and/or opportunity (What’s really the root of it?)
- Develop a situation analysis (We do this in all of our project plan outlines at the very beginning. It’s habit now and often ensures that what we think is the issue is actually the issue in the client’s mind.)
Step 2 – Planning
No strategic campaigns can be done overnight. It takes time and careful consideration of many factors. From who the target audience (or audiences) is to the best way to reach them, each component must be planned. According to EPR 10, it starts with goal setting and laying out the structure of how you’ll get from point A (the problem) to point C (the desired result).
- Determine the program goal (What’s the desired end result and when do you want it happen by?)
- What’s the strategy? (Learn the difference between a strategy, objective and tactic! A strategy is the “overall action and communication plan for achieving the program goal.” EPR 10)
- Determine the target audiences and objectives (Consider internal AND external audience members – employees, media, government officials, etc. Make sure your objectives are S.M.A.R.T.)
Step 3 – Implementation
Here comes all the fun – and the hard work. You’ve done your research. You’ve defined the problem. You’ve designed your plan. Now it’s time to put it into action! Now is when you can start determining what tactics will be used to achieve the stated objectives and start doing the campaign.
- Action Tactics – What do we need to do to ensure this certain objective is met, or exceeded? (This could be sending out a news release or contacting media to attend the event.)
- Communication Tactics – What is the message we need to communicate? (Remember which audience you are communicating with. What you tell employees may not be the same as what you tell media. Jargon could play a role, etc. Also consider which tool will be the best delivery method – email, social media, a news release, etc.)
- Program Implementation Plans – Who’s going to do what and when? (Have a schedule and define responsible parties from the beginning! This is SO important. You don’t want all your hard work in planning to be delayed or messed up because something was overlooked.)
Step 3 – Evaluation
The project or campaign is over, but your work isn’t done yet! Did it work? Was the goal met? Were the objectives and strategies met or were there issues? Measuring the outcome(s) of communications is just as important and measuring sales after an ad campaign. While much of communications work is consider qualitative, there are many components that can be quantitative as well. You’ll make your evaluation job easier if you use S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives from the beginning.
- Evaluation Plans – First you had to determine how the outcomes would be measured, then after the project you have to them apply those measurements and determine the results. (Did we get the behavior change we were looking for?)
- Feedback & Program Adjustment – It’s not good enough to just evaluate the program and determine if it worked. You have to then apply that knowledge, plan, etc. to future programs. (If your feedback indicated employee dissatisfaction, what will you do as a result?)
If you follow the RPIE plan and EPR 10′s steps, you will have a successful communications program. You may not get the results you want, but you will have done it strategically, intelligently and in a measurable way that can be learned from. I highly encourage you to read the book, even if you aren’t interested in getting your APR. I guarantee you will learn something. If you do get a copy, this outline is on page 306.
We take no ownership to this content or claim any rights to it. All RPIE, 10 steps and EPR 10 references are direct indicators that they are ideas and content from the book, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th Edition by Glen M. Broom. This post is meant to merely share knowledge – and the book – with others looking to better their professional skills. We give Cutlip, Center and Broom kudos and HUGE thanks for writing this important book!
Recently we had the opportunity to attend the The Blue Chip Awards Luncheon. A wonderful afternoon filled with successful small business people, great food and inspirational stories, the highlight was key speaker, Nikki Stone.
An Olympic gold medalist, Nikki overcame much adversity and physical challenges throughout her career and stressed the importance of setting career goals in her keynote speech. Stone discussed the significance of her goals as the direct result for her success. She explained how she would write down all her goals and keep them close to her – literally in her pocket at all times (on advice from none other than Muhammad Ali!). This helped her stay motivated when those moments of giving up rolled in.
So why is it so important to set career goals? For every individual it is different because we all have different destinations in which we wish to reach. No matter what our definition of success might be, we all strive for our own version of it. By both physically and mentally defining our goals we are mobilizing our energy towards one single aim. Having a clear and concise strategy and focus will allow us all to better be able to accomplish any objective.
This can and should be applied to our work goals as well. Having a defined set of actionable items makes reaching success easier. With goals and a strategy, one can create a series of steps to reach them. Be sure to consider this when working on your marketing and communication goals.
Who are you trying to reach? What’s your end goal? How can you quantify it and measure your success as you go?
“Success is how high you bounce after you hit rock bottom.” -Gen George Patton from Nikki Stone’s speech
This is part 3 of our 3 part series covering lessons learned and tips gathered at the recent FPRA Annual Conference.
Peter Hollister, APR, Fellow PRSA, CPRC of Hollister, Trubow & Associates, offered a lecture on strategic communications during the conference. Before you start yawning (no offense Mr. Hollister), as we all know strategy talk can sometimes be dry, this was a powerful presentation.
First of all, there has to be an understanding that communications plans (or really any marketing plans) must have a long range view that relates to the company or organization’s brand and branding efforts. Additionally, we have to “get” that this not something that will be developed then put on a shelf or adhered to the same way now as it will be 5 years or even 2 years. With the ever changing media and communication landscape, we have to move forward and design our strategic plans in such a way that they are flexible and a living document.
- Strategic Planning vs Long Range Planning
- A strategic plan does not have an ending. It’s a dynamic, living thing. Components within have an ending, but not the plan.
- A strategic plan has evaluation built into it. Benchmarks, etc. so you can tell as you go along if you are making the expected progress.
- Strategic planning is participative. You must be involved in it, not invite an organization in and hire them to do it.
“Strategic management provides guidance, direction & boundaries for operational management.” – George A. Steiner Strategic Planning
A strategic plan encompasses all aspects of an effort or initiative and is people and customer centered. This is of the utmost importance! Now, with social media and consumer driven/derived media we (communicators) are considering this more. Before there was a push mentality.
We would push information out. Send our messages where we thought our target audiences were. Now, we can ask them. Listen and find out what they want and communicate WITH them, not AT them. It’s really relationship management. We have to be constantly thinking about ENHANCING RELATIONSHIPS.
Every strategic plan must take this into account. And, as Mr. Hollister pointed out, this change in thinking and way of designing a strategic plan explains what PR and communications is and does for those not in our industry.