By Michelle Scheuermann, APR
Director of Communications, The Sportsman Channel
If you’ve acquired your Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) via Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in the last few years, then you had to submit a public relations plan for your Readiness Review. How excited are you right now knowing the plan you labored hours over is pretty much a Beacon entry?
The purpose of submitting a plan was to demonstrate your competence in 16 areas of public relations knowledge, skills and abilities. Those areas range from creativity to time management to grasping how to publish a PR Plan. And those winning Beacon Award plans are highlighted as the most strategic, successful PR Plans.
The PR plan, as taught in the APR process, was grounded in the four-step process of Research, Analysis, Communication and Evaluation (RACE). Most of us tend to skip the first two steps and jump right into Communications, or Tactics, of our programs. (Because that is the fun part!) And if our bosses push us, we’ll evaluate the program for success or failure.
After some time of skipping the first two steps, you begin to notice a pattern of your plans not achieving the level you thought they could. The RACE process pushes us to create more strategic, and therefore more successful, plans. This is also what Step Three of the Beacon awards are based upon.
Let’s review in detail:
• Research is where you collect formal, informal, primary and secondary research. It’s where you define your problem (the situation analysis) and identify your publics or audience.
• The next three steps are the meat and potatoes of your three-page “Project Summary and Addendum” for the Beacons, and counts for 80 percent of your overall score!
• Analysis is the planning and programming. This is where you identify your goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and other program elements directed to your targeted audiences. Remember, you already identified your target audience in your situational analysis. The third step is the communication process, or actually implementing the plan.
• The last step is the evaluation (or results) where you measure the effectiveness of your plan against your stated objectives. You can adjust your plan moving forward for future use – and your evaluation can be used as research for the next time around. This is where you place clippings received, praises earned and final budget tallies.
For the Readiness Review to complete your APR, you had to ensure your portfolio included the Nine-Step PR plan as outlined under the “Analysis” part of RACE. I’ll dive into this deeper since you can incorporate the nine steps into the project summary,step three of the Beacons, which counts as the majority of your score.
Step 1 – Your goals. Think in terms of end results and not process alone. Usually kept to four or five goals.
Step 2 – Your targeted audience. Consider, who needs to know or understand? Who needs to be involved? Who’s affected?
Step 3 – Objectives for each audience. If you have multiple audiences that means you must have at least one measureable, results-driven objective for each audience. Think in terms of awareness, action or attitude you desire.
Step 4 – Strategies for each objective. The overall channel or vehicle used to carry out your objectives
Step 5 – Tactics – how will you carry out your stated objectives?
Step 6 – Evaluation – are you reaching your objectives?
Step 7 – Materials – what’s needed to carry out your tactics
Step 8 – Budget
Step 9 – Timetable – I’ve always use a Task Manager list for all events and plans. It states the activity, who’s responsible and the date of completion. It works great in a large group to keep everyone on task.
So fellow APR’s, dust off those Readiness Review portfolios and with a little tweaking, you have your Beacon entry! For those considering your APR and you’ve already completed a Beacon entry, then I encourage you to consider that entry the first step towards accreditation.
For more information on obtaining your APR, visit http://prsa.org.