April 17, 2008

Developing a PR Plan

Filed under: Uncategorized — jameslutes @ 10:26 am

My first substantial assignment in my PR Planning and Problems class was to review a case study and write a PR plan. The study involved a manufacturing company that discovered toxic chemicals in the sediment of a lagoon located on its property. The company decided before clean-up operations could commence, it would have to notify its community and employees of the contamination. This is where me and my group came in.

I was in charge of writing the strategy and tactics for notifying the local media. I found this to be challenging, because even though our group had some good ideas, I had trouble categorizing them as being either part of the “strategy” or “tactics” section. One clearly stated rule in our course book (Writing Winning PR Proposals by Tom Hagley) was that you are not allowed to list your tactics in your strategy section. I found this be particularly frustrating because the strategy section also had to explain the effectiveness of the persuasive techniques our group had developed, but I couldn’t list any of the tactics.

For a long time I was at a roadblock, but after a couple of drafts I finally started to understand how to write a strategy section. I learned that I needed to discuss the strategy of our plan in much more conceptual terms. Doing this enhanced the quality of our plan, and I felt like I took a big step forward to become a professional.



  1. James:

    I understand your problem with strategy versus tactics. It can be quite confusing. Strategic communication/PR planning is my specialty, so I respectfully offer the following to help you in the future:

    Following is a strategic PR/communicator’s check list:

    Research. The first gift is the ability to conduct research, both formative and summative/evaluative. To be strategic, communication programs must be built on fact, not fiction. That means conducting formative research to know as much as you can about issues facing an organization. Formative research can be primary, that is, original, designed and conducted by the communicator to address specifics of his/her organization’s situation. Or it can be secondary, adapting already-conducted research that relates most closely to his/her organization’s situation. Primary research is the most demanding and expensive, but yields the best results. It is made up of qualitative components, like interviews and focus groups, and quantitative components, like surveys and questionnaires. The completed research then becomes the basis of writing a credible situation analysis.

    Goals and objectives. Once a situation analysis is written, then the strategic communicator has a basis on which to make his/her recommendations. That involves setting goals and objectives. Goals are broad brush, over-the-top, higher level concepts of what needs to be accomplished, like to improve an organization’s relationship with key publics or enhance its reputation/image among key publics. A number of objectives then come in under a goal to help manifest it into reality. Objectives are the work horses here, for each should be specific, measurable, time-sensitive, attainable, and relevant to accomplishing the goal it serves.

    Strategy and implementation. Now that goals are set with appropriate objectives, the strategic communicator must decide on a mix of tactics that will reach target audiences. This involves dipping into the strategic communicator’s tool kit and selecting a mix of tactics that will reach the audience in a timely and cost-effective manner. A mix of tactics that have the highest credibility with target audiences is always better than a few tactics only. Devising effective strategy also must take into account the time schedule for tactical implementation. Gantt charts work exceptionally well for this.

    Budgeting. Now that recommendations have been formulated and backed up by strategy and tactical implementation schedules, the strategic communicator must budget the activity as competently as would be expected of any business manager. The greatest tool since the hand-held calculator for this purpose is the Excel Spreadsheet to play “what if” games until the budget is within guidelines and meets needs.

    Summative (or evaluative) research. Now the strategic communicator comes full circle. You begin with research to know what needs doing. Now you end with research to see if your strategic communication efforts have accomplished goals and objectives. The key here is to concentrate on measuring and evaluating the success or failure of your objectives, the work horses of strategic communication. Strategic communicators don’t wait until the end of the planned work to evaluate it. It’s too late then to do anything about it, except learn from mistakes. Strategic communicators monitor and evaluate all along in order to make any needed course corrections to stay on target. Final evaluation then can help set up success in the next cycle of activity.

    I hope this helps, James.

    Les Potter

    Comment by Les Potter — April 20, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  2. Professor Potter,

    I really appreciate you commenting on my blog. The streamlined information you gave me for developing a PR plan is already proving to be very helpful. My planning and problems professor has assigned me to create publicity for the 2008 Communicators Conference. After reading your comment, I have dedicated a large amount of time to research. This has made writing my strategy and tactics much easier, and helped me stay focused on my overall goal. Thanks again for the advice.

    James Lutes

    Comment by jameslutes — April 22, 2008 @ 11:34 am

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