PR campaign refers to undertaking organized communicating activities to achieve a specific objective, usually within a specified period of time. Organized communicating activities may include research on the subject of the campaign, creating a combination of messages and ongoing provision of a lot of information, distributing information and evaluation of the success of the campaign.
The general objective of a PR campaign is to influence behavior of a large audience of targeted diverse stakeholders in one way or another.
Specific objectives of PR campaign can include changing or reinforcing an attitude or behavior of targeted stakeholders. It can also be to educate, create awareness or inform stakeholders about specific issue. Objectives of a PR campaign may also include all of the above.
PR campaigns can focus on products or services, be political or be ideological or focus on particular issue or cause.
PR campaign management consists of four phases: research, planning, implementation and evaluation.
The PR campaign is affected by the business environment. A business environment is very turbulent and continuously changes. Ongoing environmental scanning is essential for public relations practitioner to be well informed about happenings in the business environment to ensure that such changes can be incorporated into the public relations campaign planning and management.
PR campaign planning
Effectiveness of the PR campaign is measured by whether or not the general objective of the PR campaign is achieved. In other words, whether the behavior of the targeted stakeholders was influenced in a way organization intended. To ensure effectiveness of the PR campaign, it is vital to undertake systematic public relations campaign planning.
There are various campaign models the public relations practitioner may use to systematically plan a PR campaign. One of the models is four-step public relations campaign model by Cutlip, Center and Broom. Other modules include the communication by objectives model developed by Fourie, Steyn and Puth’s. All models are similar but differ in some respects.
To take a look at one of the models, we will briefly discuss the Cutlip, Center and Broom model. The four-step process suggested by those authors are:
- Defining the problem – this refers to the research phase. The focus is on understanding the current situation.
- Planning and programming – this step refers to determining programs and policies. The focus is on what should be done to achieve the objectives of the campaign.
- Taking action and communicating – this step is where implementation takes place. It focuses on how particular actions should be undertaken to achieve the objectives of the campaign.
- Evaluating the campaign – the last step focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign. This refers to whether the objectives were achieved.
In planning the PR campaign, other important aspects to consider would be the profitability of the campaign. A PR campaign can be very expensive and analysis should be undertaken to see if the campaign will bring a greater benefit to the organization compared to the cost involved in implementing it.
In the planning stage of the PR campaign, the important aspect is feed-forward. This refers to researching beforehand the targeted stakeholders and how the stakeholders might react to particular messages.
Research of targeted stakeholders should include such variables as demographic characteristics of the targeted stakeholders. This refers to such aspects as age, gender and religious beliefs.
Comprehension capacity of the targeted stakeholders also must be understood. In other words, how well educated are the stakeholders and what is their level of understanding and knowledge about the subject of the campaign.
Communication habits of the targeted stakeholders also must be considered. This refers to such aspects as which language the targeted stakeholders speak and which media they prefer. In researching targeted stakeholders, public relations practitioners may gain a better understanding on what kind of approach for the campaign they should select. The types of approach may include being serious, emotional or humorous.
The probing of how targeted stakeholders might react to particular messages may be achieved by, for example, giving an indication to the stakeholders of the message of the proposed campaign. This can allow evaluating of potential opposition of the stakeholders to the campaign. This information can be used to adjust the campaign to better meet the needs of opposing stakeholders or to prepare to deal with the opposition.
Ensuring effectiveness of the PR campaign
For the PR campaign to be effective, it must establish an image of being revolutionary in nature. It must entice targeted stakeholders to buy into the message communicated and to identify themselves with the message.
Moreover, for campaign to be effective, the communicator, organization and medium must be perceived as credible by targeted stakeholders. Media makes it possible for campaign to reach stakeholders through use of one or more channels. It can refer to mass media or to individual mediums.
It is important to ensure the public relations campaign is culturally acceptable to all stakeholders and that channels used to communicate messages are accessible to targeted stakeholders. Channel refers to a tool which is used to carry information. Further, media refers to the channels via which the message of the public relations campaign reaches stakeholders.
The PR campaign must also incorporate values and norms of the organization and of targeted stakeholders. If this aspect is ignored and the values and norms of stakeholders will conflict with the campaign – such a campaign will likely not be effective.
For a PR campaign to be effective, it must be supported by top management.
During and after implementation of the PR campaign, public relations practitioners need to obtain and respond to the feedback from the stakeholders.
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