How to plan for a major public relations initiative

If you want to increase public awareness either of your organisation and its program or services, or of your company's attitude to a vital community issue, you have to plan the publicity: it won't just happen. Planning such a special initiative or campaign is really nothing more than preparing a blueprint of what is to be done and how and when each task will be accomplished. Start with a simple PR project, using this approach...

1. Appreciate the value of a planned PR approach.

A planned approach can help your organisation in a number of ways. In addition to providing clear direction for a special public relations thrust, it can also, for example:

  • inform the community and customers about your organisation's overall programs and activities.
  • build confidence in what your organisation and its staff are doing for the community.
  • provide staff members with a common purpose which in turn will clarify their own concepts of the organisation's worth.
  • raise awareness of common issues.
  • rally support for the organisation's program.
  • improve the relationship between your organisation and community.

2. Establish a task force.

Large organisations often employ specialised public relations staff; others outsource this responsibility. If your company is not in a position to use such services, however, a self-help approach could be considered. In this instance, responsibility for developing and implementing a plan is best vested in a small task force or committee comprising capable staff, community representatives, and even customers.

3. Define the challenge and identify the objectives.

A one-off public relations initiative is usually designed to correct a negative situation for the organisation, to achieve a well-defined once-only objective, or to maintain or improve an existing positive situation. Whatever your motivation, your first step is to define the message you wish to give the community. In 30 words or less, be able to answer the question: 'What precisely do we wish to accomplish?' A vague goal such as 'To get publicity for our company's environmental program' is relatively meaningless. This aim might be better stated as: 'To make clients, customers, and community aware of our company's concern for the environment and to induce community participation in our efforts to be concerned about our local environment.' Next, break this over-arching aim down into two sets of specific objectives - informational and motivational. Try to make them realistic, achievable and, hopefully, measurable.

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