PLANNING IN PR
A successful media campaign programme, whether setting up the PR Unit or general activities,
requires effective planning and implementation. It is the method of performance from the beginning to the end.
Most of the time, a fire brigade approach always fails at the end of the day. It is for
this reason that before an organisation embarks on any action, enough time should be devoted to planning.
A research may be conducted with suggestions and recommendations on how things should
be done, but that is only a statement, which requires adequate strategy of accomplishing it through planning. It shows how
reasonable and relevant the programme is to the organisation. This is a better way of controlling budget and time.
Planning can come in many forms. It may be long-term, short-term or impromptu. Whichever
it is, it requires enough skill, knowledge and ability to carry out the programmes successfully. In public relations, some of the activities
that require planning include the following:
(a.) Basic Media Routine: This is the way and manner the practitioner issues press releases,
organises media interviews, press briefings, coordinates courtesy calls/visits and even how points and facts are composed
for feature articles.
(b.) Events Planning: These are events geared towards attracting a large participation
of target audiences. This planning is intended to outline the roles of groups or individuals at such events. It may include
a product launch, trade fair or similar exhibitions, conferences, corporate donations, community relations and other related
public functions like the meet-the-people/customers’ forum.
(c.) Futuristic Planning: Every organisation has a goal it sets out to achieve, and goals
cannot be achieved in a short time, if it will take a long period. Therefore, for achievable, attainable and continuous objective,
the organisation will require strategic planning to cater for every unforeseen and predictable circumstances within its environment.
The moment a set goal is identified, then planning commences.
FACTORS OF GOOD PLANNING
(a.) Manpower: The major ingredients of a good plan include utilising trained professionals
to brainstorm, propose and execute the planned programme. This may be the public relations officer.
(b.) Goals: Since we work to accomplish a particular mission, a target must be known and
set. It is the basis for existence as it enables the organisation assess the progress of the programme.
(c.) Timeliness: The duration it should take must be clear. This may not apply to strategic
futuristic planning. A project meant, for example next month, ideally must be planned well ahead of the time. It forecloses
the duration and man-hour to be employed.
(d.) Material: Some programmes are capital intensive and require vital equipment for their
success. This is where budgeting comes in. It involves costing such tools like cameras, computers, printing, transportation
and such other requirements.
Planning is one of the five steps that should be followed in devising any overall communication
programme, observed Quentin J. Heitpas in his article “Planning” in Experts in Action: Inside Public Relations.
He demonstrated that planning is the middle of the programming cycle which has fact-finding, followed by research, planning,
communication and measurement. All the processes perform significant roles in executing any programme.
The basic principle to a good planning is the realisation that there is the need for communication,
which must be done through pungent research work, so as to understand problems and their solutions. It is based on the findings
and recommendations that a plan of action can be outlined on a step-by-step approach towards achieving results.
Through a realistic approach, Quentine has suggested nine stages that will assist in careful
planning. The steps are demonstrated in a diagram called The Public Relations Model. The model starts from Structure Overview and followed by Set Objective, Define Public, Select Media, Develop
Message, Establish Strategy, Devise Timetable, Structure Measurement and Prepare Budget.
The above planning model can be easily explained by taking a case study of a bank that
intends to go into the newly introduced Universal Banking, which was approved by the federal government. The management of
the bank decides to organise a press conference to inform the public on its new move. The following may be undertaken based
on the model:
Structure Overview: The Press Conference
must be seen as the right and appropriate channel to reach the larger or specific publics.
Set Objective: It assumes that at
the end of the conference, the public would be adequately informed of the benefits of the universal banking in their banking
Define Publics: The specific publics
to be reached must have been identified. Notable publics in this regard include the existing and prospective customers of
the bank, finance community, which includes corporate organisation and business leaders. Those are targets who will benefit
from the new service offered by the bank and which the bank hopes to generate profit from their interaction.
Select Media: Even though all media
are important as they satisfy their respective audiences, specific media may be selected based on their coverage, proximity,
and their interest and editorial preference. Therefore, business magazines, financial dailies, professional journals on banking
and related economic matters are ideal choices. Apart from regular dailies that devote about 65% of their reports to business
like Thisday, National Interest, the elite business weeklies like Financial Standard, Business
Time and others are irresistible for in-depth features on banks’ new services.
Develop Message: The bank must equip
itself with the guidelines for the operation, and satisfy all the requirements of the apex bank and the legal authorities.
The speech to be delivered and the message for adverts and commercials in the media must articulate the position of the bank
and its ability to carry out the service. The essence is to win the public confidence and trust in the bank.
Establish Strategy: The conference
may be held in a commercial or business capital where there are many potential customers. A city like Lagos where there is a large concentration
of media houses, apart from being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria,
may be ideal for timely and wider coverage. Other strategies that the bank may consider include radio jingles, supplements
in the dailies and interviews with some selected media. Probable change of name to depict the new status of the bank, as it
was the case when First City Merchant Bank changed its name to First City Monument Bank, is also necessary. If necessary,
the logo of the bank may also be changed to make the public know that the bank is serious in its new endeavour.
Devise Timetable: All activities towards
the success of the conference and the expected response should be timed to avoid clumsy and unnecessary obstruction. Invitations
for media coverage should be dispatched some weeks before the day of the event with subsequent reminders through telephone
calls and other appropriate channels. Press releases, jingles and adverts too should be timed accordingly. The programme may
be held in the morning to enable some business editors who may research further, and photographers, enough time to process
their pictures for the edition of their newspapers the following day. Organising the conference in the morning may also afford
the electronic media enough time to edit the story for the day’s news.
Prepare Budget: All the activities
above have financial implications either in fixed or variable cost. For full coverage with an expected favourable result,
the cost of all steps of action must be carried out according to the need.