Creating a public relations plan starts with the definition of certain goals – ensure that certain business milestones is adequately covered in the media, that the brand’s stance on certain issues is communicated wisely, that a certain positioning is established etc.
We make efforts to achieve these goals which, bear fruit after a while. Once these goals are met, we get back to the drawing board to craft strategies for another set of goals defined in similar manners.
This process keeps repeating itself, since the results of one round of activities fade out over a period of time, and a newer set of goals are realised, often requiring brainstorming from scratch. Occasionally, the new set of public relations strategies will have few to none linkages with their preceding goals. The underlying cause of this duplication of efforts over and over is – limited and superficial understanding of the goals of brands.
This failure to put your finger on the “problem statement” accurately, creates campaigns on fundamentally weak foundations – that solve the superficially visible problem. Too much time and effort is wasted on this peripheral understanding, than digging deep to figure out what are the real problems that need to be addressed.
Another evidence of this comes in the form of lacklustre response to some highly ambitious and intricately crafted public relations strategies. Short lived spikes in recall and right associations are certainly feel-good for clients and consultancies but not quite what the businesses “need” in the long run. Proof of the pudding is in the eating, so unless prove, business results are empirically observed, the job of PR and communications counsel is incomplete. A PR veteran aptly termed this “symptomatic treatment rather than the cure”.
The solution to identifying the disease to be addressed begins with robust communication with the client, and study of their brands’ ecosystem. When a client presents a brief, try to understand the linkage of the goal defined therein, with the brand’s business goals. The most integral part of problem definition is breaking it down; into mutually exclusive sub-goals, and tracing each of them to their separate influencing parameters. On a related note, most crises can be avoided simply by studying this linkage thoroughly and red-flagging risk factors. The next step is prioritising the problems. Is it even worth solving? Can you risk not solving it? Candid conversations with your clients can help you prioritise goals, and increase the effectiveness of your efforts.
Beyond addressing these goals, public relations counsel can address challenges and opportunities created around the brand. These may not always be readily articulated by clients. It is for a consultant to figure out the challenges and opportunities, and to never lose sight of any of these when developing strategies.