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Public relations planning.

This checklist is designed to help those with little or no background in public relations to begin to manage this area effectively within their organisation. It provides a model for developing a public relations plan that supports the organisation's overall aims and objectives and gives guidance on press and public relations activities. It is designed for use by managers in all types of organisations in the private, public and charitable sectors.


The Institute of Public Relations defines public relations practice as 'the discipline which looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support, and influencing opinion and behaviour.'

While media relations, to secure the right profile in the press, on radio and TV, is an integral part of public relations, it does not represent the whole picture. Public relations involves communicating the right messages about your organisation to all those audiences that might affect your business in positive or negative ways; media relations is just one way of communicating with many of those audiences. By using public relations, you can 'manage' your reputation rather than leaving it to chance.

Advantages of public relations planning

Effectively managing public relations can:

influence opinion of the organisation and enhance corporate image

create awareness of a product/service or brand leading to sales

generate support for the organisation's work

develop long-term business relationships

improve staff recruitment and retention.

Disadvantages of public relations planning

There are no real disadvantages to public relations planning, but failure to manage public relations effectively can result in:

misrepresentation of an organisation's activities or products

damage to corporate image

boycotting of an organisation's operations

lack of understanding of the organisation leading to missed


loss of advantage to competitors

Action checklist

In order to develop a public relations plan, you need to look at the overall business aims and objectives of your organisation. The public relations objectives should support these and link to the overall business plan.

1. Define target audiences

These will depend on the nature of your business, but are broadly defined as:

* customers/clients--those who buy or use your products or services

* the media--press, radio, TV (terrestrial and satellite), Internet

* internal groups--current and future employees, suppliers, distributors

* community groups and pressure groups

* government--central and local

* investors, shareholders, potential sponsors.

2. Conduct research

It can be valuable at this stage to undertake research among your customers or the groups you wish to influence to establish their current awareness and opinion of your organisation, product or service. This will reveal areas that you need to concentrate on, and can then act as a benchmark against which to measure your success in meeting your objectives.

3. Set public relations objectives

Objectives show what you plan to do, while strategies and programmes describe how you plan to do it. Objectives should be realistic, measurable and with a time limit.

For example, if your organisation has a marketing objective:

to increase purchases of Product X by consumer group Y by 10% over the next 12 months,

you could set a public relations objective:

to improve awareness of the benefits of Product X among consumer group Y within the next 12 months.

4. Decide key messages

Decide on the messages that you wish to get across to the different groups with which your organisation needs to communicate. Outline the concepts you wish to convey--precise wording and presentation can only be determined later when you have chosen your media.

5. Clarify resources

It is important to establish the financial and human resources which are available to commit to public relations activity. Make a list covering budget, staff, time, equipment, IT, design and print facilities.

Indicate which are in-house resources and which may need to be bought in, so that you are in a position to make choices about where to spend your budget.

6. Select a programme of activity

The programme describes which activities will be used to achieve your objectives. It should include a timetable which could indicate, for example, phase I, II and III, or activity on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis. The programme should clearly prioritise the communication channels you have chosen.

Below are examples of types of activity you might pursue. They are outlined under broad headings for ease of access, but some of these activities can often be used in your communications with different audiences, although they might emphasise different messages. For example, a briefing could be used for public affairs and lobbying, but it could also be used to communicate with potential sponsors, staff and community leaders.

Media relations

* Press releases/statements, articles, radio and TV interviews and discussions, press conferences and briefings, photocalls and photographs, press visits and press interviews (telephone, video link or face to face).

Internal communications

* In-house newsletters, staff briefings and seminars, noticeboards, memos, briefing papers, training manuals, internal videos, open days, conferences, intranets and e-mails.

Public affairs and lobbying

* Briefing documents for MPs, submissions to Government, briefings/presentations to MPs, parliamentary committees and government ministers, parliamentary questions and tabling Early Day Motions.

Events management

* Exhibitions, conferences, talks, presentations, roadshows, staffing a stand or leading workshops at trade shows, competitions and awards.

Community relations

* Familiarisation visits, community projects, sponsorship of local charities, open days for community leaders and neighbours, information videos, consultation and discussion groups.

Investor relations

* Reports, accounts, AGMs, briefings and presentations, shareholder newspaper/magazine, corporate video.

7. Evaluate successes and failures

By making your public relations objectives measurable you will be able to evaluate which activities have worked. Success can be measured in terms of 'output objectives'--for example, did you meet your original aim to release a given number of stories to the business media each quarter?

However, measuring success by 'impact objectives' will be more valuable in the long-term--for example, did you succeed with your original aim of raising awareness within a specific group and affecting its members' behaviour? This can be harder to measure, but results will provide more accurate performance indicators.

Systems can also be put in place to measure, for example, the number of leads and sales generated by media coverage, or follow-up research can be used to establish changes in awareness and attitudes following a campaign.

Useful reading

Evaluating public relations: a best practice guide to public relations planning research and evaluation, Tom Watson and Paul Noble London: Kogan Page, 2005

How to measure and manage your corporate reputation, Terry Hannington Aldershot: Gower, 2004

Public relations in practice, 2nd ed, Anne Gregory London: Kogan Page, 2003

Winning reputations : how to be your own spin doctor, Chris Genasi Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002

Useful addresses

Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The Old Trading House, 15 Northburgh Street, London EC1V OPR.

Tel: 0207 253 5151

Public Relations Consultants Association.

Willow House, Willow Place, Victoria, London SW1P 1JH.

Tel: 0207 233 6026

Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH.

Tel: 01628 427500

Thought starters

* To whom are you talking?

* What message do you want to communicate?

* Why do you want to communicate it--what are the aims and objectives?

* Which channels are you going to use?

* When are you going to carry them out?

* How much will it cost in resources?

* How will you evaluate your success?
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Title Annotation:Checklist 155
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Marketing Strategy
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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