As many of you know, I earned my APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) last year. Quite the process, I learned far more than I thought via studying assigned literature. One such piece, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th edition (EPR 10) was invaluable.
Having practiced public relations for large and boutique firms, I felt secure in my abilities. My APR study course reassured me, but I learned a great deal about structures and systems that can help me, as a public relations communications professional, do a better job. One of those is what the book calls “Public Relations Strategic Planning Outline”. It basically outlines the four-step process most of us are familiar with – Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation (RPIE) – and adds steps for each.
This blog post will outline the RPIE process and EPR 10’s suggested 10 steps. I’ve added in notes on how we apply these within our company with hopes that will help get your wheels turning too!
Step 1 – Research & Define the Problem
I find this surprisingly simple, but it’s so important. How many times a PR professional are we so busy trying to address an issue that we don’t even take the time to really look at it and define it. in EPR 10, they go so far as to really detail the situation in two suggested steps:
- Define the problem and/or opportunity (What’s really the root of it?)
- Develop a situation analysis (We do this in all of our project plan outlines at the very beginning. It’s a habit now and often ensures that what we think is the issue is actually the issue in the client’s mind.)
Step 2 – Planning
No strategic campaigns can be done overnight. It takes time and careful consideration of many factors. From who the target audience (or audiences) is to the best way to reach them, each component must be planned. According to EPR 10, it starts with goal setting and laying out the structure of how you’ll get from point A (the problem) to point C (the desired result).
- Determine the program goal (What’s the desired end result and when do you want it to happen?)
- What’s the strategy? (Learn the difference between a strategy, objective, and tactic! A strategy is the “overall action and communication plan for achieving the program goal.” EPR 10)
- Determine the target audiences and objectives (Consider internal AND external audience members – employees, media, government officials, etc. Make sure your objectives are S.M.A.R.T.)
Step 3 – Implementation
Here comes all the fun – and the hard work. You’ve done your research. You’ve defined the problem. You’ve designed your plan. Now it’s time to put it into action! Now is when you can start determining what tactics will be used to achieve the stated objectives and start doing the campaign.
- Action Tactics – What do we need to do to ensure this certain objective is met or exceeded? (This could be sending out a news release or contacting media to attend the event.)
- Communication Tactics – What is the message we need to communicate? (Remember which audience you are communicating with. What you tell employees may not be the same as what you tell the media. Jargon could play a role, etc. Also consider which tool will be the best delivery method – email, social media, a news release, etc.)
- Program Implementation Plans – Who’s going to do what and when? (Have a schedule and define responsible parties from the beginning! This is SO important. You don’t want all your hard work in planning to be delayed or messed up because something was overlooked.)
Step 3 – Evaluation
The project or campaign is over, but your work isn’t done yet! Did it work? Was the goal met? Were the objectives and strategies met or were there issues? Measuring the outcome(s) of communications is just as important and measuring sales after an ad campaign. While much of communications work is consider qualitative, there are many components that can be quantitative as well. You’ll make your evaluation job easier if you use S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives from the beginning.
- Evaluation Plans – First you had to determine how the outcomes would be measured, then after the project, you have to apply those measurements and determine the results. (Did we get the behavior change we were looking for?)
- Feedback & Program Adjustment – It’s not good enough to just evaluate the program and determine if it worked. You have to then apply that knowledge, plan, etc. to future programs. (If your feedback indicated employee dissatisfaction, what will you do as a result?)
If you follow the RPIE plan and EPR 10’s steps, you will have a successful communications program. You may not get the results you want, but you will have done it strategically, intelligently, and in a measurable way that can be learned from.
We take no ownership to this content or claim any rights to it. All RPIE, 10 steps and EPR 10 references are direct indicators that they are ideas and content from the book, Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 10th Edition by Glen M. Broom. This post is meant to merely share knowledge – and the book – with others looking to better their professional skills. We give Cutlip, Center and Broom kudos and HUGE thanks for writing this important book!