Public Relations

by Debbie Leven

Planning PR

In general, the starting point for an organisation is to establish the perceptions of key audiences and then compare these to ideal perceptions. An organisation needs to have a good understanding of its audiences and what influences their perceptions. Any focus on PR would look to take one of three routes:

  • Creating a perception
  • Building on, or enhancing, current perceptions
  • Changing perceptions.

Defining timescales and clarifying what key stakeholders want to achieve contributes to defining PR objectives. Ideally, initial PR objectives are revised to ensure that they are SMART:

  • Specific – defining the desired result
  • Measurable – described in a way which makes it possible to measure
  • Achievable – ensuring the objective is attainable
  • Realistic and relevant – assessing whether resources are available and whether achieving the objective will help move the organisation in the direction it wants to go
  • Time-frame – setting a time-frame contributes to ease of measurement.

This makes it possible to assess how the activity contributes to the wider success of the organisation and the extent to which has been successful.

Perception

If they don’t already have the information, the PR department or your PR adviser may seek to gauge current perceptions. This will help to inform the development of PR objectives and activity. A PR department might use a number of methods to gauge current perceptions, including

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Press and media coverage to date.

Also, as with much research, it can be useful to employ the services of an independent market researcher or market research company. Carrying out research on a regular basis provides a useful yardstick to measure changes in perception and highlight shifting attitudes. Information from such research can be used to assess past PR activity as well as shape objectives and future activity.

The process of devising PR objectives, carrying out activity and evaluating activity should be circular rather than linear. So, the results of evaluation should help to shape future PR activity and this should really be an ongoing process. In reality, the process is not always so scientific.