Chapter 6: Program Planning

2 04 2009

(Notes from Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics 9th Edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Glen T. Cameron)











Before you start any serious action in public relations, you must have a plan.

Approaches to Planning

•  Management by Objective:  Norman R. Nager and T. Harrel Allen have created nine different steps for MBO planning.

  1. Client/employer objectives- What is the purpose of the communication, and how does it promote or achieve the objectives of the organization?
  2. Audience/publics- Who exactly should be reached with the message, and how can that audience help achieve the organization’s objectives?
  3. Audience objectives– What is it that the audience wants to know, and how can the message be tailored to audience self-interest?
  4. Media channels– What is the appropriate channel for reaching the audience, and how can multiple channels (news media, brochures, special events, and direct mail) reinforce the message among key publics?
  5. Media channels objectives– What is the media gatekeeper looking for in a news angle, and why would a particular publication be interested in the information?
  6. Sources and questions– What primary and secondary sources of information are required to provide a factual base for the message?
  7. Communication strategies- What environment factors will affect the dissemination and acceptance of the message?
  8. Essence of the message– What is the planned communication impact on the audience?
  9. Nonverbal support– How can photographs, graphs, films, and artwork clarify and visually enhance the written message?

A Strategic Planning Model

Ketchum has created a more detailed list of questions that can be used in the planning process


  • Category facts-  What are recent industry trends?
  • Product/service issues-  What are the significant characteristics of hte product, service, or issue?
  • Competitive facts-  Who are the competitors, and what are their competitive strengths, similarities, and differences?
  • Customer facts-  Who uses the product and why?


  • Business objectives-  What are the company’s business objectives?  What is the time frame?
  • Role of public relations-  How does public relations fit into the marketing mix?
  • Sources of new business-  What sectors will produce growth?


  • Target audiences-  What are the target audiences?  What are their “hot” buttons?
  • Current mind-set-  How do audiences feel about the product, service, or issue?
  • Desired mind-set-  How do we want them to feel?

Key Message:

  • Main point-  What one key message must be conveyed to change or reinforce mind-sets?

Elements of a Program Plan

“Althought there can be some variation, public relations plans include eight basic elements”:

  1. Situation
  2. Objectives
  3. Audience
  4. Strategy
  5. Tactics
  6. Calendar/timetable
  7. Budget
  8. Evaluation

•  Situation:

Three traditional situations often prompt a public relations program:

  1. The organization must conduct a remedial program to overcome a problem or negative situation
  2. The organization needs to conduct a specific one-time project to launch a new product or service
  3. The organization wants to reinforce an ongoing effort to preserve its reputation and public support.

•  Objectives

A stated objective should be evaluated by asking:

  1. Does it really address the situation?
  2. Is it realistic or achievable?
  3. Can success be measured in meaningful terms?

Informational Objectives:  “Many public relations plans are designed primarily to expose audiences to information and to increase awareness fo an issue, an event, or a product.”

Motivational Objective:  “They are bottom-line oriented and are based on clearly measurable results that can be quantified.”



“Public relations practitioners target specific publics within the general public.  This is done through market research that can identify key publics by such demographics as age, income, social strata, education, existing ownership or consumption of specific products, and where people live.”



“A strategy provides guidelines and key message themes for the overall program, and also offers a rationale for the actions and program components that are planned.”


“Tactics involves using carious methods to reach target audiences with key messages.”


“Program planning should take into account the environmental context of the situation and the time when key messages are most meaningful tot he intended audience.”


“Organizations establish an amount they can afford and then ask the public relations staff or firm to write a program plan that reflects the amount allocated.”


“Evaluation criteria should be realistic, credible, and specific.”




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