Home principles and practice of public relations PLANNING AND EXECUTING A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMME

PLANNING AND EXECUTING A PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAMME

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

Public Relations as we explained at the beginning of this course, is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. This implies that the establishment and maintenance of this mutual understanding must be planned and provided. The axiom proper planning prevent poor performance holds true in all public relations situations. Good and effective public relations involves good planning.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of thus unit, you should be able:

  1. Identify the importance of planning public relation activities and programmes. 
  2. Enumerate three public relations process planning models and their usefulness. 
  3. Outline the steps involved in public relations planning.

3.0 MAIN CONTENT 

3.1 Planning a Public Relations Programme

There is no better way to understand the place of planning in public relations than to recall the definition of the British Institute of Public Relations which refers to public relations as the deliberate, planned and….Frank Jefkins also defines PR as consisting of all planned communications both inward and outward…

These definitions clearly emphasize that public relations is not a haphazard activity. It must be carefully planned to achieve certain objectives, using certain predetermined strategy.
Generally, when we plan we intend to achieve certain objectives or goals:
To contribute to the overall success of our activities.
To help define the direction we intend to follow so that our actions can be focused. Planning helps us to direct our energy in one direction instead of dissipating it in various directions.
Planning enable a public relations practitioner to be proactive instead of reacting to situations.
Planning helps to keep public relations activities in line with the organisations missions, goals and objectives.
When we plan, we are able to secure management support and approval for all the activities undertaken by public relations practitioner. This improves the effectiveness of the public relations activities as all sections of the organisation are aware of the programme.
Planning helps to determine in advance what is needed and how to tackle the problem. It helps us to determine from the beginning, what we intend to achieve. There is a programme to work on instead of muddling through which reduces effectiveness.
Finally, planning helps us to project a long term view of our activities it helps to identify likely problem areas and issues which we can proffer prior solution instead of waiting to take fire-brigade action when they are full-blown. Planning reduces the cost of carrying out public relations actions in
particular and management in general. 

Self Assessment Exercise

  1. Make a two-page write up on the need to plan a PR campaign to create awareness on polio eradication in your state. 

3.1.2 Planning Models in Public Relations

Scholars and practitioners of public relations have provided us several models of planning in public relations. Models represents a guide or a blue print in carrying out a given task. It can be seen as a simple way of describing a complex process to enhance better understanding. For instance, if you pass by the National Arts Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, you will see a model or miniature of the National Arts Theatre. It shows you at a glance how the main object looks like. These models can be seen as the basic steps to solving PR problems.

The models of public relations commonly discussed include John Marston’s RACE Model, Frank Jefkins six-point model and Cutlip, Centre and Broom’s “Four –step Process Model.

The John Marston’s RACE model has been pervasive and popular in the study, practice and teaching of both basic and applied public relations.

Marston postulates that public relations process should follow the underlisted four steps namely:

For the Marston Model
R stands for Research
A stands for Action 

C stand for Communication
E stand for Evaluation

Research should be used to gather. Information that would enable the practitioner discover the strength, weaknesses, opportunity and threat (SWOT) of the organisation image, the publics and their perception of the organisation. The information gathered will help assist in taking the right decision.

After information has been gathered, appropriate actions should be taken to decide what is to be done and how it should be done.

Communication follows action. Here the public relations practitioners directs messages to specific publics to support the objectives earlier identified. While the organisation speaks to the public, it should also activate the mechanism to listen to the public to ensure a two-way flow of communication.

Evaluation is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the method(s) used, the level of success and carry out necessary modifications in future programmes. Evaluation helps to find out how effective was the strategies used. It can be seen that the RACE model is a public relations solving or campaign planning-oriented model that prescribes what should be done at any stage. It adopts a sequential or step by step approaches.

The Frank Jefkins 6-point model is almost similar to the RACE model. It envisages the process as consisting of;

  1. – Appreciation of the situation or problem 
  2. – Definition of objectives 
  3. – Definition of publics
  4. -Selection of media and techniques 
  5. – Planning a budget 
  6. – Assessment and evaluation of Results 

Cutlip, Centre and Broom’s Four-Step Process are;

  1. – Defining the problem (situation analysis) 
  2. – Planning and programming (strategy)
  3. – Taking action and communicating (implementation) 
  4. – Evaluating the programme (assessment) 

Defining the PR problem involves probing and monitoring knowledge, opinions, attitudes and behaviours of those concerned with and affected by the acts and policies of the organisation which is research and fact-finding. In essence, this is an organisation intelligence function as it requires determining “what is happening now?” what are the issues?” and what are the problems we face?”.

Thinking in terms of strategy is at the heart of public relations planning. A strategy is a plan to use selected means in predetermined ways to attain a desired result. Strategy involves deciding what should be done and how it is to be done to achieve or fulfill the objectives it is to be noted that planning can be for the purpose of making something happen or preventing it, for exploiting a situation or remedying an existing problem.

Taking action and communicating involves the implementation of the strategy that has been adopted and putting them into action to reach the publics. It is similar to the Marston Model.

The evaluation component of the model involves an assessment of the results of our current action with a new to identifying areas that require corrective action in future.

3.2 Executing a public relations programme

Seitel (2001) has noted that the public relations campaign puts all the aspects of public relations planning – objectives. Strategies, research, budgeting, tactics and evaluation into one cohesive framework. This entails that the blue print for the public relations campaign should follow any of the models or approaches discussed – RACE, Jefkins, Four Process, etc. According to him, a typical PR campaign plan should follow the following pattern:

  1. – Background of the problem (situation analysis) 
  2. – Preparing a proposal (strategy) 
  3. – Activating the plan (operating tactics) 
  4. – Evaluating the programme (Assessment) 

When we are faced with any PR problem or the organisation of a PR campaign, we should start with research or fact finding, design and execute some actions, communicate our actions well with the relevant publics and evaluate or assess what we have done for necessary adjustments where necessary or to see how well or badly we have done no matter the model adopted.

  1. Planning the PR programme generally involves the following series of activities. Identifying the relevant publics 
  2. Identifying alternative communication programmes and costs 
  3. Developing message strategy and tactics 
  4. Selecting media channels 
  5. Devising programme timetable 
  6. Setting budgets for the choice of strategy 
  7. Writing the PR programme. 
In writing a programme, the goal must be specified. The more specific the institutional goals, the more specific and effective the PR plan can be. In the words of Cutlip, Center and Broom. “Specificity is a golden word in communication”. Care must be taken to ensure that the programme does not end up over promising only to deliver little. The third step in the PR process is plan implementation, which is taking action and communicating. Once a problem has been defined and a plan.

Evaluating the programme or assessment is the fourth and final step in the PR process. The purpose of evaluating is to examine how well in plan has been executed. It is to seek through research answer to questions such as “how did we do? Did the programme reach the target audience? Was the programme effective in advising its intended goals; or did it have some unintended effects?

Effective feedback provides the source with information concerning his success or failure in accomplishing his objectives. Feedback helps us to modify and tailor our future messages to suit our audience.

Evaluation research reminds the communicator that dissemination does not equal communication. Evaluation research may be conducted by public relations practitioners themselves or obtained through commercial research services.

Measuring the impact of PR programme 

The effectiveness of a specific public relations programme can be evaluated by measuring audience coverage, audience response, communications impact, and processes of influence.

1. Audience Coverage

In order to produce results, PR message must first reach the target audience. The size and nature of the audience reached and the proportion of the desired audience they represent should be ascertained. For example following methods can be use to measure audience in the broadcast media for a PR programme.

  1. The diary method: This requires that some members of the household keep a written record of programme exposure. 
  2.  The recorder: This method electronically or mechanically records automatically frequency, channels or station. 
  3. The personal roster real: Respondents are shown a list of programme and stations. They are asked to indicate which they were exposed to during the measured time span. 
  4.  Personal unaided recall: Personal interviews are made during which respondents are asked about programme exposure for a preceding time span.Unlike the roster, the personal unaided recall uses no list of programmes or stations it depends entirely upon the respondent’s unaided memory for exposure information. 
  5. The telephone coincidental: Telephone interviews are made throughout the duration’s of a given programme or time period. Respondents are interviewed regarding exposure at moment of call. In the print media (Newspaper and Magazines), circulation figures helps to give rough estimates of audience coverage. 

Audience Responses

This measures how members of the audience respond to the content of the message. Does it strike them favourably or unfavourably? Does it arouse their interest or does it bore them? Audience response can be measured by the number of telephone calls and letters from the members of the audience commending or condemning a specific programme.

3. Communication Impact

The real test of a communication program is its results. The impact, which a message has on its audience, must be considered. Impact assessments seek answers to such questions as “Did the message result in the desired modification of a group’s attitudes?” Actual results offer a sure test. In addition to observation of result obtained other ways of getting at the impact include;
a. The focused interview: This involves interviewing recipients of communication and getting them to relate their experiences to various parts of a programme.
b. Impact analysis: This involves studies to determine short-term and long-term effects of a given programme. It includes determining the effects on individuals and on group and subgroups.
c Experimental studies: This involves comparing two groups which are exactly alike except for the fact that one group has been exposed to a programme whereas the other has not. The critical feature is in matching two groups so they are identical in every respect except the exposure to a specific programme. In such experiments it is essential to control influences.

4. Process of Influence

In this method several factors are assessed. For instance, what is the process by which a communication operates to influence its target audience? Through what channels of influence and mechanisms of persuasion does the message finally affect the individual? How effective is the programme in setting into motion the social processes necessary to influence the opinions and behaviour of its target audience?

4.0 CONCLUSION

We have seen that for success, public relations requires adequate planning and regarded as a routine activity. It is important for a public relations practitioners to understand the role and implications of planning as it would then achieve better results. Adequate time and resources should be given to the process of planning in any public relations programme.

5.0 SUMMARY

In this unit, we examined the importance of planning our public relations programmes as a prerequisite for success. We also considered the various models of public relations planning that sets out the steps that should be followed in planning our programmes. We also saw the usefulness of strategic plan as an aid to effective public relations programme.

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT

Examine the various ways in which the effectiveness of a specific public relations programme can be evaluated.

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