Public Relations is defined by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) as “the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
Marketing is defined by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably”.
In the digital age, communications organisations and media channels are converging to such an extent that, at the 2009 Society of Editors Conference, Neil Benson, the editorial director of the Trinity Mirror regional press suggested that the time was right for newspapers to launch PR divisions. This would have been a view impossible to stomach until recently due to the ongoing and historic conflict between hacks (journalists) and flacks (PROs).
A Public Relations campaign is a meticulously planned and comprehensively managed way of creating this understanding between an organisation and the public.
Stephen Davis, a communications consultant and founder of 3W PR, lists the 12 stages of planning a successful PR campaign as:
This is finding out the information you want first hand: Questionnaires, one-to-one interviews, telephone interviews, focus groups, blogs etc.
Often called desk research and involves gathering information from already published sources: Books, journals, papers, libraries, Internet etc.
Puts the campaign into context. A SWOT analysis will allow you to examine Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the current situation, and a PEST analysis will examine the external environment Politically, Economically, Socially and Technologically.
Once you’re aware of the problem(s) your organisation is facing, you can then define the objectives of the campaign. The objectives are what is hoped to be the end result of the PR activity. Each objective must be SMART.
Specific: Are they clearly defined and comprehensible?
Measurable: Can each objective be measured in the evaluation?
Achievable: Considering other factors (e.g. budget and timescale) are they achievable?
Realistic: Are you being realistic given the resources you have?
Time: When do you want to achieve the set objectives?
Who do you want to talk to?
Stakeholders are everyone with a vested interest in the organisation and its behaviour. They can include: employees, identified publics, suppliers, senior executives, investors
Every PR campaign needs to have a set of messages that forms the main thrust of the communication.
The strategy is the foundation on which a tactical programme is built.
The PR profession has a number of tactics (or tools) in its armoury. They include media relations, lobbying, events, interviews, blogger relations, presentations, consultations, newsletters, competitions, podcasts, stunts, websites, conferences, photography, video news releases, etc.
How long will the campaign run? Does it tie in to or clash with other events and news agendas? A ‘PR planner’ – generally covering a full year – will give you a clear vision of the deadlines ahead.
A budget lets you know what you can or can’t do and allows you to allocate money to the specific areas of the campaign. These areas include operating costs, human costs, equipment, materials.
Risk is an inevitable part of some PR campaigns and you should be prepared for the worst!
Evaluating a campaign is essential. Ongoing reviews throughout the campaign allow you to make adjustments. A final end review at the conclusion of all PR activity allows you to discover which parts of the campaign were successful and which were not.